JAY LETHAL vs. MARK BRISCOE - 6.75/10
Mark jumped Lethal from behind while Lethal was posing on the apron, which did an excellent job of getting the fans behind Lethal. They had a really solid opener with Mark working over the head and looking for the Rear Naked Choke while Lethal worked over Briscoe's knee to stop him from being able to avoid the Lethal Injection. Lethal then declared that he would be the next ROH World Champion.
TORU YANO vs. SHANE TAYLOR - 5/10
Yano once again pulled a pair of scissors out of his boot which he used to cut the turnbuckle pad off. Are they seriously still not checking this guy for weapons?
They told a fun little story of Taylor being annoyed with Yano's crap before Yano won via low blow. This is the sort of thing I'm fine with if it's going to lead to something for Taylor (like him snapping or getting angry at the company or something like that), but if it isn't then this is just another instance of Taylor failing to gain any momentum because they book him 50/50 at best with other undercard guys, and at that point why are you even keeping him under contract? He's not phenomenally talented or anything. He's just decent and large.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Taylor did, in fact, snap after the match, obliterating two ring attendants who came to check on him. If this actually does turn out to be the first step in something in the long run then this was all good, but we've had false starts before.
KELLY KLEIN vs. TENILLE DASHWOOD - 6.75/10
Tenille snubbed Kelly on the Code of Honor handshake. Tenille is definitely secretly a heel. Everything about her gimmick just screams heel, but she keeps getting booked on the babyface side and keeps getting "underutilized but finally free ex-WWE/TNA wrestler" reactions from the crowd. When she inevitably turns on Sumie or whoever it should be pretty good.
Brandi Rhodes joined Ian Riccaboni and BJ Whitmer on commentary. Whoever got her a diamond-studded arm brace deserves credit because that's an excellent rich heel accessory. She's relatively entertaining, but doesn't add anything in terms of actual analysis to the match and it's not like she's in an angle with either of these two women, so why is she out here?
Further fuel on the fire for my "Soon-To-Be-Evil Emma" theory is that Brandi Rhodes spent a good chunk of time on commentary telling us that they were friends and that she would be happy for Tenille to be watching her back, and also made a point of helping Tenille to the back after the match. Also, she uses the Tarantula, which is an illegal maneuver. When she locked it in this match, Ian Riccaboni questioned the wisdom of her breaking at three instead of keeping the hold in longer. He started this sentence by saying "I don't condone cheating, but" at which point I screamed YOU'VE DONE IT TWICE IN THE PAST FIFTEEN MINUTES" (see the first two Stupid Announcer Quotes below).
These two had a very good ten-minute match built around Tenille's knee getting worked over. This was the best Women of Honor match they've had in a long time (like, maybe since they brought the division back), and it felt like it easily could have gone another ten (Tenille countered Kelly's finisher with a roll-up). Seeing as how this is ROH and we're supposedly trying to get the Women of Honor over and all, maybe we could just leave Cheeseburger, The Dawgs, Shane Taylor, Beer City Bruiser, the Boys, and others who do nothing but eat up time off the card and let Kelly and Tenille have twenty minutes to show us what this division could actually be if it wasn't treated like an afterthought? Please?
JAY BRISCOE vs. MARK HASKINS (w/Vicky Haskins) - 6.75/10
This was Jay's first singles match in six months. Vicky Haskins distracted Jay so that her husband could jump the bell on him. This was a very odd choice considering that the fact that not only is Briscoe a heel but Haskins is the hometown guy and the announcers had a very babyface story to tell about wrestling in this building means to him. Regardless of that, the wrestlers slipped into their selected babyface and heel roles perfectly and fans... well... they just cheered for Haskins anyway, but these two had a great little fight of a wrestling match.
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH FOR THE ROH TV TITLE:
Silas Young(c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Punishment Martinez vs. Sanada - 7/10
When talking about this match earlier the announcers ran down a full list of the changes that would occur to tomorrow's show if Silas were to lose the title tonight to ensure that Doug Williams receives his shot at the title no matter who comes out as champion. It's the sort of thing that a real professional sports league would have in place... and thus it's something that pretends to be a real sports league should have in place as well.
This was a great match, telling the both the stories of shifting alliances and the standard multi-man "your pin is never safe" story. Just about the only thing I didn't like was that spot where Sanada got all three guys in the Paradise Lock. Why wouldn't he just start stomping on someone's head until the ref gave him the win via stoppage? Silas pinned Sanada with his feet on the ropes, which I guess was necessary to placate New Japan to allow him to be pinned.
HANDICAP MATCH: Bully Ray vs. The Boys - 0.5/10
Bully tries to get heat by intimidating Bobby Cruise into introducing him again because Bully apparently didn't like the way Cruise did it the first time but the fans are just chanting "ONE MORE TIME!" The match was boring, with lots of yelling by Bully.
ALL IN QUALIFYING MATCH:
Kenny King vs. Cody Rhodes (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 5.75/10
Before the match Kenny King cut a totally heel promo on Cody... then asked him if they could make this an All In qualifying match. Insulting the guy first seems like a poor way to get what you want. Cody says that's okay with him if it's okay with the fans. It is... but Cody adds one condition: if Kenny wins, he can't give his spot to Flip Gordon. I'm not sure why Cody thinks Kenny would do such a thing. Isn't a spot at All In something valuable and prestigious?
Then, just moments after he added this almost ridiculous addendum onto the match just to ensure there was no way allowing Kenny to qualify would somehow result in Flip winding up on the show instead... Cody just changes the stipulation so that if Kenny King wins, Flip Gordon qualifies for All In as well. Why the f*ck would he do that?
In the middle of the match, for no reason, Kenny King went under the ring and pulled out a rose that was randomly there, and presented it to Brandi. Dude... you know she's married. We know that you know this because less than five minutes ago you just said to Cody that would were extra-happy that you would be able to beat him up in front of his wife. This whole thing was a total heel move, and made Cody a total babyface, even though Kenny King is a babyface and Cody is a heel. This was SOOOOOOO stupid!
Speaking of completely backwards babyface/heel dynamics, when Kenny King tried to gouge Cody's eye, BJ Whitmer, the heel commentator, pointed out that this was illegal. Ian Riccaboni defended Kenny's action by saying that he has until five to do it, at which point Whitmer countered by reiterating that "it's still illegal." How the f*ck did things get so backwards?
The match itself was yet another disappointing Cody match, made even worse by the fact that the stupid stipulation they added basically gave away the result (yes, Kenny probably wasn't beating Cody here anyway because Cody is on his way to a world title shot, but at least there would be the hope that Kenny could win and get added to the PPV main event, or maybe Cody could lose via count-out or DQ or something. It's Delirious booking. I'm sure he'd come up with some stupid reason or another to justify such things to himself).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Cody started to cut a promo hyping up All In but was interrupted by his All In opponent, NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis. First Aldis metaphorically sucked his own dick, then he started to suck Cody's as well (again, metaphorically). He then said that he was upset because at the All In press conference two weeks ago Cody made a challenge for the title "without speaking to me.," so he now wants to make a deal. Cody then got to reciprocate the dick-sucking, then apologizes for the apparent faux-pas he made by only talking to NWA President Billy Corgan about getting a shot at NWA World Heavyweight Title. Magnus told Cody he would only defend the title at All In if Cody agreed to put the ROH World Title on the line if he won it between now and then, and Cody agreed.
It is important to note that Magnus did say he wanted the ROH World Title to also be on the line if Cody won the title, and not, as seems to be the general belief, that he would only defend the NWA World Heavyweight Title against Cody at All In if the ROH World Title was also on the line, so this does not basically spoil/ruin the main event of Best in the World 2018 and they do not have to put the belt on Cody (but doing so just for the sake of this match would be a mistake by all involved because if All In needs help selling tickets than the ROH World Title is probably a lot more valuable to them in its own match).
That being said, I still did not enjoy this segment, simply because it was two guys patting themselves on the back for things I really don't think they deserve. Magnus' claim to have "broken the glass ceiling for British Wrestlers" is laughable. It was more impressive that Nigel McGuinness won the ROH World Title in 2007 than Magnus winning the TNA World Heavyweight Title in 2013 just because of the talent in the two companies at the time and the rarity of being a world champion in ROH, as opposed to TNA switching their titles on a regular basis. It's also a little silly to consider either of Magnus' world title wins to be the first British world champion because this is ROH and thus there is zero reason to not consider Nigel's title win "big enough" to count. To do so would bury one of the two championships this segment is trying to make important. I also thought Magnus' claim to be restoring the NWA World Title to the glory days of Funk, Race, Flair, Rhodes, etc. was just plain laughable. That belt won't mean sh*t until it's the symbol of a major promotion, and none seem to be interested in letting Corgan book their world champion.
As for Cody, I give him credit for getting himself over and for all of the All In stuff, but quite frankly the man has been a blight on ROH. He rarely puts on ROH-quality matches (never mind ROH World Title quality matches), was given the belt because of who his father was and his previous TV exposure, is a complete and total cartoon character who of a heel who feels out of line with everything ROH is supposed to be, and the inexplicable (in my mind) fan support of him merely because he put on a Bullet Club t-shirt has made been a visible symbol of everything wrong with the current culture of fandom in ROH in particular and in most all of wrestling in general. Hearing these two men spend ten minutes giving grand speeches putting both themselves and each other over was horribly grating to me. I can't deny that this did what it needed to for storyline purposes (although it's really not even an ROH storyline), but sitting through it was a thoroughly unenjoyable experience for me.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Dalton Castle(c) (w/the Boys) vs. EVIL - 8/10
The Boys' ribs are all taped up after being powerbombed by Bully Ray earlier. Ian Riccabonni either forgot or just never new that Takeshi Morishima was the ROH World Champion. He said EVIL would be the first, then there was a pause of about five seconds (during which I imagine BJ Whitmer whispered to him that Morishima was champion) and then Ian corrected himself.
The match was awesome, with Dalton's selling and EVIL's heelishness being the highlights. The stuff with the Boys was done excellently, and I could very much get into this idea of Dalton Castle as the banged-up champion whose injuries are catching up with him and thus he could lose at any moment, but always finds a way to win. Whoever came up with calling that roll-up he used the "Splaydle" (I assume as in a "splayed cradle") is a genius. EVIL went after Dalton's eyes after the match, which I would hope would lead to this maybe turning into an actual feud but with the G1 coming up they would have pretty much no way to get around to doing anything with it until August (I doubt they're going to do an angle on the PPV or on the post-PPV TV tapings)
ROH WORLD SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Kingdom(c) vs. SoCal Uncensored vs. Bullet Club (Adam Page & The Young Bucks) - 9/10
This was exactly the kind of crazy, action-packed match you'd expect, but they did an excellent job of never going too fast for you to keep track of what was happening. The match was full of big spots and cool dives, and an excellent feeling of chaos to it. It was clearly very choreographed, but not so smooth that you couldn't pretend it wasn't, which is an excellent sweet spot to hit.
I didn't mind the ref bumps, and the visual pinfall that Daniels' got is something SoCal Uncensored can use to justify claiming that they should get another match (this was both their contractually-obligated rematch as well as the Bucks & Page's), but I thought the spot with Cody coming out dressed up as a ref and disguising his identity and then counting two for The Kingdom before flipping them off instead was extremely stupid. Why did he have the referee's shirt on and a bandana over his hair? Did he somehow know that he was going to need do an incognito run-in? Why didn't he just attack Taven? It's not like those two aren't feuding.
This was the best match in ROH since Bucks vs. Hardys, so that's over a year, and it's one of the few scores of 9/10 or higher I've given an ROH match since the beginning of 2017, so check it out. It was certainly the best match that Scorpio Sky or any member of The Kingdom have ever been involved in.
This was an awesome show from ROH, with really solid wrestling for the entire first half, followed by a major dip with the Bully and Cody matches, but then brought up again by an excellent one-two punch at the end. It also felt like it did more for storylines than a lot of other shows have recently, and the crowd was pretty hot throughout (though I think they were having some problems with the crowd audio because they would occasionally go completely silent, but when they came back it was clearly in the middle of a period of noise-making rather than the beginning). Top to bottom, this might well be ROH's best show this year, so you should definitely make sure to see this one!
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Babyface lead play-by-play announcer Ian Riccaboni praised Yano for having the "veteran presence" and "piece of mind to connect with that low blow."
It's not a "veteran presence!" It's f*cking CHEATING! Did Starrcade 1988 go off the air with the announcers praising Ric Flair's "veteran presence" to put his feet on the ropes for illegal leverage to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title against Lex Luger? NO! They were angry because he cheated! And this is doubly stupid when you consider that Ian had earlier expressed his disgust at Shane Taylor breaking the rules by grabbing at Yano's nose. So apparently nose-grabbing is indefensible, but hitting your opponent below the belt is perfectly fine.
2. Ian Riccaboni also told us that it's okay to pull someone down by the hair because "like in the NFL, it's part of the uniform."
No it's not! Hair-pulling has been consistently illegal in pro wrestling (ROH included) for a very long time!