THE ADDICTION PROMO - They started out by doing their heel catchphrase that has somehow become babyface shtick, because wrestling fans in 2018 aren't interested in wrestling so much as they are interested in making something into a thing.
Daniels put over the crowd, then transitioned into talking about the wildfires in California and said that everyone in ROH was thinking of the people in the wildfire's path, etc. etc., and specifically pointing out Joe Koff in the front row and letting them know that Koff was thinking about them, too.
This is the part where I come off like a jerk: there was zero reason for this to air, and while I'm sure the emotions were genuine, it felt a little exploitative to me. It felt like they were trying to get Joe Koff cheered, so they could at least have that visual somewhere, because usually no one cares when Koff shows up (because whatever they think about Delirious' booking and Sinclair Broadcasting's treatment of ROH, Koff seems to be universally considered by ROH fans to be at best a poor communicator and not genuinely enthusiastic spokesperson for the company).
I mean... who is Daniels' talking to, here? I don't think many people threatened by the wildfire are going to be sitting down to watch an ROH show right now, and if they are, it seems just as likely as not that they're trying to use ROH as the escapism that entertainment is supposed to be and don't want to be reminded that they might not have a house to come back to. And for those of us who are fortunate enough to not be in such a situation, it not only encroaches on our own escapism (my brother's girlfriend's family was evacuated, and my cousins almost were), but Daniels coming out and saying that (paraphrasing) "putting smiles on people's faces is what is important" is the sort of comment that takes me out of the kayfabe mood I like to get into while watching a show.
And finally... you can say what you want to about WWE's P.R. charity machine, but at least they had something ready to encourage people to donate money that would help clothe and shelter those in need, or help firefighters get the equipment they need. ROH just sent well-wishes. That's nice, but talk is cheap.
Our announcers tonight are Ian Riccaboni, Colt Cabana, and Caprice Coleman. Ian introduced Caprice as an "international wrestling star." Caprice has only wrestled (that I could find records of) a total eight matches outside of the US. All of them took place in ROH, in the Toronto/Mississauga market, and one them was a f*cking dark match. In his entire ROH tenure (almost eight years at this point), he has felt like anything more than a lower-midcard wrestler a grand total of ONCE, which was his tag title shot with Cedric Alexander at Pursuit: Night 2. Ian calling him an "international wrestling star" just shoots his own credibility right out of the gate. If you're someone who groans whenever Michael Cole calls any midcarder from the 90s a "WWE legend" then you should be groaning when Ian does this sh*t, because it's the exact same thing.
Actually, can we please just stop saying "international wrestling star" altogether? It comes off as such a fake, 70s-80s phrase that they use to try to get you to immediately buy into some dork they put under a mask and claimed was a famous Luchador. When someone is a real f*cking star, we'll know it... and if we don't, then you need to provide evidence, like a highlight reel showing his/her many victories overseas. Yes, I realize that everything Ian says when he is trying to be serious comes off like third-string announcer from a late 70s territory, but this is one phrase that particularly annoys me. I think it's the way they seem to assume that adding the word "international" in will make it seem like a big deal to us (like the way they talk about their "international television tapings"). It's like ROH doesn't realize that this is 2018 and people travelling to/interacting with others from and in/seeing footage of matches from foreign countries is at least a weekly occurrence for most fans.
THE BOYS vs. THE KINGDOM (Vinny Marseglia & Matt Taven) - no rating, great segment
The Kingdom jumped the bell on the Boys and beat the crap out of them. Referee Paul Turner never got control of the match so the bell never rung, and by the time Taven was whipping he Boys with his belt and throwing them into chairs, it was clear there was no reason to start it.
Taven grabbed a mic and told us that this beating would continue until Dalton Castle (who was not at ringside with his Boys because he was preparing for his match against T.K. O'Ryan later tonight) came out to stop it. The fans chanted "SAVE THE BOYS!" and as Taven was about to hit one of the Boys with the same con-chair-to he used to give Dalton Castle a concussion earlier this year, Dalton finally made his appearance.
Instead of rushing in to a two-on-one situation, Dalton tried to reason with Taven to get him to stand down, asking him what he thought he was proving by doing this. Shockingly, this actually worked, and Taven insisted that he wanted Dalton to stop his respecting the "ROH World Title" meaning Taven's fake one and insisted that Dalton be the "challenger" in his first "ROH World Title defense" at Final Battle. This part is where things fall apart a bit for me, although, in fairness to this show, it isn't anything that has happened tonight that was the problem so much as the way the last two nights failed to tell a story to properly build up to this point.
On the first night of this tour, Taven challenged Dalton Castle to a match at Final Battle, with no bells or whistles attached. There didn't really even seem to be any particular reason behind the challenge, and the closest we got was Ian Riccaboni speculating that Taven feels a need to beat Dalton to validate his claims that he should be the ROH World Champion due to first Dalton having to pull out of a title match due to injury back at War of the Worlds Tour 2018: Day 1 in May, and then his visual pinfall over Dalton in the four-way where Jay Lethal won the title from Dalton at the end of June. As I noted in my review of that show, this need for validation via beating Dalton seems completely at odds with the idea that Taven is already walking around and claiming to be the "real ROH World Champion."
Dalton did not respond to this challenge at the time, and we didn't hear anything from either him or Taven about any of this last night, either (despite Taven cutting a promo to open the show). Now, tonight, we start off with Taven extremely upset about Dalton "disrespecting him," and neither we nor Dalton seem to have idea what he's talking about, and only afterwards does he explain to everyone that he is upset that Dalton hasn't accepted this match which him, which he also wants to be an "ROH World Title" match and he considers Dalton not accepting this challenge to be disrespectful to his "ROH World Title." The problem here is that between where we left off on night one and where we are picking up tonight, there are elements to this story that are missing.
1. Taven never said anything about his title being on the line when he made the challenge, and as I said above, Ian's commentary fits even more with the idea that it wouldn't be. So why is Taven upset at Dalton for "disrespecting" him and his title by refusing a title match when Dalton had no way to know that Taven even intended for this to be a title match? While you could sweep this under the rug by saying that Taven is supposed to be a delusional heel, I don't think that's very fair to the booking, because Delirious seems to have gone to great lengths to ensure that Taven does have some very valid points about getting screwed out of the title (by the ref bump in the second match, and in the first match one could argue that Dalton should have surrendered the belt via forfeit if he couldn't make the scheduled defense due to injury), which contradicts the idea that Taven is supposed to be delusional (in fact, Taven's points are strong enough that I've spent the past few months saying that the fact that ROH officials haven't addressed them itself constitutes something of a plot hole).
2. While you can argue that Dalton not giving an answer is tantamount to not accepting Taven's challenge, without Dalton saying anything about it, we don't know why he has turned down the challenge, which is a big part of why Taven is upset and is trying to force Dalton into accepting this match.
A much better and more effective way to tell this same story would have been as follows. As I sad in my review of the first night of this tour, after their match on that show, have Taven cut a promo in which he specifically challenges Dalton to "invoke his rematch clause" at Final Battle and challenge for Taven's "real ROH World Title," and have Dalton leave confused.
Last night's show would then start off with Taven cutting a promo expressing his frustration with Dalton for not having given him an answer yet, and telling Dalton he has until the end of the night to do so. After Dalton's match, I would have Dalton Ian go and interview Dalton and ask him about Taven's challenge, to which Dalton would respond that Matt Taven is off his rocker if he thinks anyone other than himself recognizes his so-called "real ROH World Title" and instead announce that he wants to invoke his rematch clause to be inserted into the REAL ROH World Title match at Final Battle against Cody Rhodes and the winner of Sunday night's Jay Lethal vs. Kenny King ROH World Title match.
Now that we have established why Taven wants this match with Dalton so badly, why Dalton is turning it down, and thus why Taven feels so disrespected by Dalton's actions (as well as giving us something of a warning that Taven's frustrations could boil over soon), can we do this segment here tonight, where Taven, feeling disrespected for reasons we clearly understand, forces Dalton to accept his challenge via heelish means, with Dalton's announced intention to challenge for the recognized ROH World Title at Final Battle- which he now won't be able to do- both making us even angrier at Taven for taking this opportunity away from Dalton, as well as kicking off the story that will eventually pay off in Dalton getting his contractually-obligated rematch. All while changing nothing other than the words said in promos and adding one short interview segment after a match.
It's things like this that irk me so much about the current booking because they are so easy to get right, and yet Delirious rarely does. Storytelling is like a one-row puzzle, with all of the pieces fitting together in order, but with much of Delirious' booking, it feels like he has lost one third of the pieces and is still trying to finish the puzzle by laying the remaining pieces out in order and just jamming the jagged edges together even though they don't fit.
Anyway, T.K. O'Ryan comes out and attacks Dalton from behind, revealing the true depth of Taven's cunning trap. Vinny and T.K. beat Dalton up and drag him to the ring where Taven starts to beat him up as well. Taven's punches looked GREAT. Security comes in to make the save. Where were these guys when Dalton's Boys were getting beaten up outside the confines of a match a few minutes ago?
Referee Paul Turner orders The Kingdom to go to the back, and while Taven and Marseglia comply, T.K. does not, instead telling Turner that he is scheduled to wrestle Dalton tonight, so he thinks they should have the match right now. Turner apparently agrees, as he ordered the bell to be rung despite Dalton's injured state, without even asking Dalton first. Why he do this here, but never have the bel rung when Taven and Marseglia started to beat up The Boys, a beating which started from a much more even position than this did?
Anyway, we then got...
DALTON CASTLE vs. T.K. O'RYAN - 4/10
O'Ryan beat Dalton down for a bit longer but Dalton made his comeback and got the win in a few minutes. Yes, even after suffering a three-on-one attack piled on top of all of his nagging injuries, Dalton still defeated T.K. O'Ryan completely cleanly and in a matter of minutes. This made O'Ryan look like a complete and total jobber. A MUCH better option here would have been to have them go to a time-limit draw, with T.K. dominating it and Dalton always managing to kick out and start to fight back. This way O'Ryan doesn't get buried and Dalton not only doesn't have to lose, but still gets to look tough by lasing through such a beating. You could even have Dalton want five more minutes but have Turner refuse to allow it out of concern for Dalton's long-term health (Dalton's post-match promo accepting Taven's challenge could have been cut backstage at a later point on the show).
This finish is a fine example of what I mean when I criticize Delirious for "booking for the pop in the moment" rather than considering the long-term or storytelling consequences of his finishes. Here we had something (have The Kingdom attack Dalton before the match, then show that Dalton is tough by not having him lose) that could have been accomplished with a draw, which would have the added benefits of not making a young (supposed) up-and-comer not look like crap, giving us what would have probably been a better match, and also showing that Dalton's injuries are actually affecting his results in the ring... but instead we just got Dalton Castle winning cleanly, because that's what would get a pop in the building and at that moment.
DALTON CASTLE PROMO - He cut a very good promo in which he said that Taven's belt was fake but accepted his challenge for Final Battle in order to gain revenge upon him. The problem is that he didn't really sell the injuries he talked about having, and this, combined with the fact that I discussed above about said injuries not actually stopping him from winning matches, took some of the punch away from his promo.
KENNY KING PROMO- Kenny cut a good promo burying the local sports team and expressing the utmost confidence that he would win the ROH World Title from Jay Lethal in two nights in Toronto. He then told us that ROH officials had promised him a "warm-up" match tonight but wouldn't tell him who his opponent is... but no matter who it is, he is ready to kick his ass.
On commentary, Ian Riccaboni said that he hopes that whoever Kenny has to face tonight is as skilled as Jay Lethal's opponent tonight, Chris Sabin. Then out came Kenny's opponent: Cheeseburger. Is the idea here supposed to be that ROH management is deliberately trying to make things more difficult for Lethal? Because that's what this all makes it seem like.
Kenny took it the other way and complained about ROH management disrespecting him by giving him a jobber when he wanted a real warm-up match. Either way, ROH management is coming off in the wrong here. Kenny makes fun of the other local sports team, then tells Cheeseurger to leave the ring or face an ass-kicking. Burger wants to wrestle, so we get...
KENNY KING vs. CHEESEBURGER (w/Eli Isom & some other dweeb) - 4/10
Anyway, Cheeseburger offered Kenny a handshake but Kenny instead gave Burger a cool "didn't see it coming" leg sweep, then started beating on him. They did some stuff for a while, with Kenny predictably dominating. He eventually got Burger in what Ian Riccaboni only referred to as "that new hold he debuted in Las Vegas." Said hold was Austin Aries' Last Chancery, showing that (and probably the others, but I'm ragging on Ian because he was the one who opened his mouth) have completely failed to make the connection between Kenny's new attitude after his loss to Aries (and Aries telling Kenny his weakness was being too nice), and the new move Kenny has brought along with his new attitude.
Cheeseburger got out of this hold by biting Kenny King's hand. Ian Riccaboni had no problem with this, so Caprice Coleman rightfully chewed him out (pun intended) for the double-standard he seems to be applying by criticizing Kenny whenever Kenny cheats but having no problem with Burger doing it here.
We then got about two minutes of a goofball loser named Cheeseburger getting sustained offense and nearfalls on the #1 contender to the ROH World Title. Thankfully Kenny cut Burger off and got the win soon after, but this shouldn't have happened at all. To make matters even worse, Colt Cabana buried Kenny for not being able to beat Cheeseburger particularly quickly, so now we have the announcers even making Kenny look bad going into his title shot.
Also, can the announcers PLEASE stop calling Cheeseburger "the heart and soul of Ring of Honor?" That's the sort of nickname that you give a top babyface. Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, the Briscoes, Roderick Strong, and Eddie Edwards were "the heart and soul of Ring of Honor." Cheeseburger is a goofball jobber. Yes, he tries hard, but he's still a goofball jobber named Cheeseburger.
MADISON RAYNE vs. KELLY KLEIN - 5.75/10
These two women will be part of a Four Corner Survival Match for the Women of Honor Title at Final Battle, so Women of Honor Champion Sumie Sakai came out to sit on the stage and watch the match. Whenever they cut to her, Sumie looked painfully bored. I mean really, truly bored out of her mind. That's not good.
The match was good for the time it got, which, unfortunately, was the usual generic eight minutes the women usual get. Madison was a fine babyface, but Kelly Klein once again stood out as an excellent "big mean, heel." This was yet another Women of Honor match where my only thought coming out of the match was "WHY IS KELLY KLEIN NOT THE WOMEN OF HONOR CHAMPION ALREADY?"
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH:
Flip Gordon vs. BUSHI vs. Jonathan Gresham vs. KUSHIDA - 6.75/10
Rhett Titus once again showed up to pose on the stage, then join the commentary team to say nothing of use.
EVIL vs. JEFF COBB - 6.75/10
EVIL played the heel here and found ways to use the referee to help him do things. Cobb won in a disappointingly short 11-12 minutes.
JUICE ROBINSON vs. SILAS YOUNG - 7/10
Juice is dressed even more goofily than normal (he appeared to be wearing a shower curtain as a ring robe) so Silas won't shake his hand. They told a good story with Silas working over Juice's back, that came to an end with what I thought was a pretty well-booked finish (well... that's what I thought at moment it happened, though the post-match segment quickly disabused me of that notion). Said finish was Juice about to hit Pulp Friction when Bully Ray came out and kicked him in the nuts for the DQ, which works because although we all know that Bully is going to say he was helping Silas and saving him from embarrassment, Bully's character is such that it's entirely possible (if not likely) that his real intention in doing this was to cause Silas to lose, like he thinks Silas caused him to lose last night in their tag team match against LIJ.
That being said, my initial reaction to this finish was disappointment because we were finally getting a great match tonight after almost two hours, and now it has come to a premature end. On a better card, I would have felt better about this.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Hated it. Bully immediately starts yelling at Silas about disrespecting him last night, taking any sort of suspense out of the idea I mentioned above. Then Flip Gordon came out and attacked Bully to build up to their Final Battle match. Then Silas hit Flip with a low blow, completely resetting everything they have done with Bully and Silas. Bully gets a Kendo Stick to hit Flip with when who should come out to make the save? JOE KOFF. Yes, really.
Koff comes out on stage with a mic and tells Bully that he had better not hit Flip Gordon with that Kendo Stick because Koff is furious about "what you did in Philadelphia," which consisted of Bully hitting Flip with a Kendo Stick several times (after having won the right to do so via the steps of a Sandman vs. Silas Young match), then hitting Flip in the nuts. Remember when Bully first turned heel and THREATED TO MURDER CHEESEBURGER as well as getting one of the biggest shows in company history shut down by the state athletic commission by using an illegal move, and Koff couldn't even be bothered to fire the guy from his position as the official "ROH Enforcer" for MONTHS afterwards? But G-d damn it, hitting someone with a Kendo Stick is just too far and demands action!
Koff starts screaming about how he hates Bully and the fans hate Bully and all of the TV viewers on WXYZ or whatever also hate Bully (because name-dropping three different local station names definitely doesn't make you seem small time), and so if Bully ever hits anyone with a Kendo Stick ever again, Koff will fire him. Again... threatening to murder someone and get a show shut down: not a firing offense. Hitting someone with a stick: firing offense.
Koff then shoved the microphone into Bully's chest and stormed off. Throughout this whole thing, the fans were booing mildly, rather than getting the big cheer that this was designed to get. At this point I was hoping that one of two things would happen: either that Bully would just pick up another weapon and start bashing Flip's brain in with it, just to make Koff look like an idiot, or that Silas would just pick up the Kendo Stick and hit Flip with it, again just to make Koff look like an idiot. And after Koff's big announcement, the fans just chanted "WE WANT TABLES!" I laughed so hard I almost pissed myself.
Riccaboni started screaming about how great it is that somebody "with a little bit of corporate muscle" has "finally" started to stick up for Flip, which, to me, just begs the question where these negligent assholes have been for the past seven months while Bully has been doing terrible things to Gresham, Cheeseburger, Flip, the Boys, and probably others that I'm forgetting as well. I mean, if merely attacking people from behind a few times was enough to get Koff to declare an entire year in advance that SCU's contracts would not be renewed because of their behavior, then surely all of the much worse things Bully has done since WrestleMania weekend should have merited some sort of disciplinary action from Koff, right? But that didn't happen, and for no other reason than "because that's not what we wanted to have happen in the story yet." And any time ""because that's not what we wanted to have happen in the story yet" is your answer to a question of logic or inconsistency in your story, you've f*cked up telling your story.
THE YOUNG BUCKS vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito & Sanada) - 7/10
Hey, look! A match that got more than fifteen minutes! I believe this is the first we've had in close to two full shows now. The match was exciting, but didn't quite feel like it lived up its potential when you consider what the Bucks have done with EVIL & Sanada this year. The only thing I didn't like here was the Paradise Lock stuff. All of the sh*t that gets done in Sanada's matches with the Paradise Lock is SOOOOOO stupid, and if I could wipe it from everyone's memories, I would do so in a heartbeat.
PROVING GROUND MATCH:
ROH World Champion Jay Lethal vs. Chris Sabin - 7/10
Sabin holds out the necessary fifteen minutes to earn a title shot via a time-limit draw, despite spending the last forty seconds or so in the Figure Four Leglock. Then Sabin got the fans to start chanting "FIVE MORE MINUTES!" WHY? He already earned the title shot, and if we're supposed to think that lasting fifteen minutes against the champion isn't enough to earn a title shot then the company shouldn't be booking matches where that is the rule.
Then Jay Lethal grabbed a mic and started to cut a promo, saying they would definitely need more than five extra minutes, so he wants ten instead. Then says that the match is going to be an ROH World Title match. Now I'm confused. Are we adding ten minutes to the just-concluded match, or are we having an ROH World Title match that is a new match? This is relevant because ROH World Title matches usually have one-hour time limits, not ten minutes, and if Sabin earns a title shot here, it should be under normal rules, shouldn't it?
Anyway, we wind up with an...
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Jay Lethal(c) vs. Chris Sabin - no rating, okay segment
They are immediately attacked by Kenny King, causing a no-contest. This builds up to Kenny King's title shot against Lethal tomorrow night, as well as sets Sabin up as a future challenger down the road. Cool. Kenny posed over Lethal's corpse with the ROH World Title belt. The fans chanted "CHEESEBURGER!" though I'm not sure if they were making fun of Kenny or hoping that Burger would run out to make the save.
THE BRISCOES vs. BEST FRIENDS vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page & Cody Rhodes) (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 6.75/10
When Cody and Jay locked up, Ian claimed that "it's so rare that you see former Ring of Honor World Champions in there together," but this really isn't true. Even being as generous to Ian as possible and only counting it when there are two former champions (meaning the champion at the time doesn't count) on opposite sides of a match together, it has happened at least fifteen times in the eleven months of 2018 alone. That's an average once every 2.666 shows, and we only have four people on the roster right now who qualify as former world champions (Cody, Lethal, Dalton, Daniels, and Jay Briscoe make five, minus whoever the champion has been at that moment in time).
This is a main event in Ring of Honor, so of course they start doing spots based around people wanting to hug and getting prevented from doing so. Bullet Club are supposed to be babyfaces, but Brandi hopped up onto the apron to distract Beretta by jiggling her boobs at him so that Cody can attack him. The Briscoes then demanded that Brandi be ejected from ringside. I don't see why The Briscoes are being heelish here. They seem to be the only ones interested in a serious wrestling match rather than a hug-and-boob-fest. Also, Brandi is ejected from ringside so she can't distract people with her body... and we're all supposed to be this? That doesn't sound very progressive to me, and the Bullet Club crew (and Cody in particular) have been very proud of how progressive they try to be, so this doesn't gel with that, either.
The action was good for a while, but not really main event level. We eventually got a ref bump. If it had led to what it looked like it was going to lead to-Cody and Beretta facing off over the IWGP United States Championship that they're scheduled to have a match for in two nights- then I could have accepted it, but instead it was just a set up for The Addiction to run in, because G-d forbid we have a main event without bullsh*t in it.
This was another disappointing show on this tour from ROH. It feels less frustrating than the previous two, though, because while the wrestling was unspectacular, it felt like it was it at a slightly higher level than other first two shows, and this one felt like it had some real storyline value it. A lot of the stuff that they did was frustrating, sure, but at least I can walk away from this show feeling like most of the things I saw are actually relevant.