COREY HOLLIS, JOHN SKYLER, & JOSEY QUINN vs. SHINOBI SHADOW SQUAD (Eli Isom, Ryan Nova, & Cheeseburger) - 4/10
The local heels cut a promo before the match to get some cheap heat, then also jumped the bell on the babyfaces. The babyfaces won clean in a relatively short match. The Shinobi Shadow Squad are apparently 6-0 now, with their first five wins coming on Future of Honor shows. From a kayfabe point of view, why is Cheeseburger still wrestling Future of Honor?
BEER CITY BRUISER vs. MARK HASKINS - 6/10
They started off with Haskins going for a waistlock and Bruiser throwing him off, then demanding that Haskins "fight" instead of using wrestling holds. From there they told the story of Bruiser goading Haskins into wrestling Bruiser's style of match instead of his own, with some stuff "big and strong vs. small and fast" stuff woven in as well. They went just under seven minutes, but did a great job of telling their story in that relatively short amount of time.
BEST FRIENDS vs. LIFEBLOOD (David Finlay Jr. & Juice Robinson) - 6.75/10
FLIP GORDON vs. TRACY WILLIAMS - no rating
Flip unfortunately blew his knee out a few minutes in. Hopefully it's not too serious.
PROVING GROUND MATCH:
ROH Six-man Tag Team Champions The Kingdom vs. Luchasaurus, Shane Helms, & Delirious - 6.5/10
This was fine for what it was, which was a win for The Kingdom that also allowed them to Luchasaurus on the show without him taking the fall. Delirious came into this match with taped-up ribs, which The Kingdom worked over. Helms does absolutely nothing for me in the ring at this point.
P.J. BLACK vs. BANDIDO- 8.25/10
Yes, it was mostly moves, but everything was paced out well and the uniqueness of the match-up definitely gave it an extra special feeling. Major kudos to both of these men for this awesome match. I also popped for Ian Riccaboni shouting the word "dangerous" when describing the situation that led to the finish. Oh boy does that bring me back.
INSTANT REWARD FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL PROVING GROUND MATCH:
ROH TV Champion Jeff Cobb vs. Jonathan Gresham vs. Shane Taylor vs. Rhett Titus - 6.5/10
Before the match Shane Taylor cut a promo insulting his three opponents. He then said that he found being booked in this match insulting because he has nothing to prove, and he walked out of the match. So Shane Taylor is unhappy with management not giving him opportunities. AGAIN.
Even though this should technically still be under Four Corner Survival rules tags are not needed for some reason. Also, the change they added back at State of the Art 2018: Dallas that you can pin anyone and get a title shot instead of just the champion still applies, but the other stip that was added to the Proving Ground Instant Reward gimmick for that match- the Defy or Deny type of stipulation where if the champion wins the match then the wrestler who was pinned or made to submit can't get another title shot until the champion loses the belt- was not mentioned at all.
The match was relatively short for what you'd expect considering that it was TV Champion Jeff Cobb against Jonathan Gresham (plus Rhett actually getting a chance to not be a comedy guy for the first time in forever), going about eight and a half minutes but they did a good job of telling the story of Cobb's size advantage in the time they got while giving the others a bit of a chance to shine. Cobb won by pinning Rhett.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Didn't like it. Silas Young came out and distracted Cobb so that Taylor could come back out and attack him. The announcers noted that these two were also involved in a post-match attack directed by Bully Ray in Philly and wondered if Bully was behind this as well. I really, badly don't want to see a stable of these grumpy, whiny heels, and I think that sticking them together in a stable (especially when I'm having trouble thinking of any other heels in the promotion aside from The Kingdom and The Briscoes... and Taven also arguably falls into the category of whiny heel) exposes the fact that there really isn't much variety among the heels in ROH right now.
STREET FIGHT FOR THE WOMEN OF HONOR WORLD TITLE:
Kelly Klein(c) (w/Camp Klein) vs. Jenny Rose - 7/10
Yes, Kelly Klein now has her own version of Team Taz, who immediately hop up on the apron and distract Jenny Rose so Kelly can get the jump on her. Didn't Kelly just turn babyface over Final Battle weekend? Because both the way the announcers were pushing her and her promos really made that feel like the case. Also, as the announcers pointed out, if this is a no DQs match then why don't all of Kelly's lackeys just run in and beat Jenny up?
These two had a pretty great brawl with a few different stories running through it. First was Camp Klein causing distractions (but never actually putting their hands on Jenny). The second story was Kelly's back getting worked over. The third- which I assume had to be part of the booking design based on how hard the announcers pushed it, but enough things like that have turned into dead ends over the past few years that I can never be entirely sure- was the idea that Jenny Rose was too concerned about crowd reaction ("pandering to the crowd," as the announcers called it) and thus was giving Kelly time to recover instead of directly following up. I liked the fact that Jenny did these things in ways that were not so completely over the top that they made it seem obvious that this would cost her in the end, but rather by doing standard babyface stuff in situations like this that you always kind of think to yourself looks a little goofy but you accept because it's wrestling... except this time the announcers are making the point that this really isn't the best situation to be doing it in, and this is a Street Fight for a championship, so they've definitely got a point. Hopefully this will be followed up on in some manner that gives Jenny some actual character.
The action itself was pretty good, although I really could have done without the comedy spot guest appearance by one of Vinny Marseglia's f*cking balloons. They did a good job of making this feel like an "I'm trying to hurt you" Street Fight instead of a "this is an excuse for us to do lots of spots with weapons that make loud noises" Street Fight. That being said, I still would have liked to see a title match Street Fight get more than twelve and a half minutes.
VILLAIN ENTERPRISES vs. THE BRISCOES & SILAS YOUNG - 8.5/10
This was your usual crazy, awesome six-man tag. If they absolutely had to do a table spot it really shouldn't have been right in fro0nt of the referee, but that was the only real misstep in this match (by the wrestlers, I mean. Some of the commentary was not good at all- particularly Caprice Coleman implying that the referee had no way to attempt to dissuade anyone from using a table, and Ian calling something a Ganso Bomb that very clearly wasn't). PCO was used sparingly, but used extremely well, and him getting the pin on Jay Briscoe definitely establishes him as a force in ROH... but if you're going to establish someone right away in that manner, I'd have much rather seen it be Brody King, who has a lot more potential to be difference-maker in ROH (and the wrestling business as a whole) over the next decade.
NICK ALDIS (W/KAMILE) PROMO - He plugs the Crockett Cup and says that his NWA World Heavyweight Title is the real world title, so that's now three people running around claiming to be the real world champion. To support his claim he lists off a bunch of previous NWA World heavyweight Champions... not a single one of whom has held that belt in over twenty-five years. Yes, I know they work for WWE, but you might as well mention AJ Styles, Steve Corino, Shinya Hashimoto, and Sting just to make that silly thing seem to be at least slightly more relevant. If you're only going to brag about Lou Thesz, Harley Race, and the Funks you should just go to Larry Zbyszko's house and challenge him for his AWA World Heavyweight Title instead of bothering the ROH World Champion. And yes, bothering the ROH World Champion is exactly what Aldis intends to do at some point.
I'm sorry, but I absolutely do not understand how ROH benefits from partnering with the NWA. The only talent they have is this mediocre goofball, the name of the brand has basically zero value at this point, you're diluting the concept of a world champion by giving any sort of credence to someone else's (I doubt this is going to end with the Magnus jobbing cleanly to the ROH World Champion and the titles being unified), and I don't see why ROH at this point in the history of the company (we're approaching the 17th Anniversary Show!) should have any need or desire to associate itself with something that screams "WE ARE THE PAST!" For a promotion that is just starting up, like TNA was when they brought the NWA belts in, the move makes sense. But ROH has so much of its own rich history at this point that it doesn't need to desperately latch on to someone else's well-past-bygone glory, and doubly so when ROH's history shows an ability to create new major stars in the wrestling business, while the NWA name hasn't helped anyone do that in YEARS. Even the guy they've stuck the belt on now was already a world champion in TNA, and during a very dry time in TNA's history as well... and he's STILL less relevant now with the NWA World Heavyweight Title than he was as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion in 2013-2014.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Jay Lethal(c) vs. Dalton Castle (w/the Boys) - 8/10
Aldis replaced Caprice Coleman on commentary for this match, and was pretty great at it.
Dalton started out hot, working over Lethal's neck and being in total control, but after a few minutes Lethal managed to hit a Lethal Injection and all of a sudden we were watching a completely different match. It was very weird. Said work on Lethal's neck would still be part of the story, but going from one guy in total control to the other guy in total control just a few minutes in like that felt a little odd (between babyfaces, I mean. It happens all the time in traditionally-structured babyface vs. heel matches, but rarely happens so abruptly early on in babyface vs. babyface matches).
Lethal would go on to work over Dalton's injured back and Dalton sold it extremely well. Unfortunately, the presence of the Boys on the outside was a detriment to this, as the contrast between Dalton's selling and their over-the-top antics made the whole thing seem silly. They really should tone it down in the future.
Anyway, Dalton and Lethal had the usual awesome babyface vs. babyface match that you'd expect from them. The last few minutes were particularly good. We got a handshake after the match, but Lethal's body language here, offering the handshake while posing victoriously with the title and barely even looking at Dalton while offering his hand, seemed a little disrespectful to me.
This was a pretty great show from ROH, with the top matches all delivering and pretty much everything delivering as best it could given the time allotted. A great way to start off the year for ROH.