MARTY SCURLL vs. RHETT TITUS - 6.5/10
A fine opener. I like serious Rhett. Can we maybe extent that to his out of the ring character as well? Or at least let him go back to being arrogant womanizing heel Rhett Titus who has comedic elements to him but doesn't come off as a complete and total joke, as opposed to this dork lugging around a trophy from a fake bodybuilding tournament? It's a completely unnecessary addition that turns Rhett into a total joke, and turning Rhett into a joke is counterproductive if you're going to stick in spots where he is getting a clean advantage on a guy like Marty Scurll.
TAG WARS 2019 FIRST ROUND MATCH:
Alex Coughlin & Karl Fredericks vs. LifeBlood (Juice Robinson & David Finlay Jr.) - 5.75/10
Tenille Dashwood came out with LifeBlood and did guest commentary for this match. Speaking of commentary I REALLY hate it when commentators bring up (or even allude to) the fact that NJPW young-boys aren't allowed to do non-basic moves. It makes the match feel inherent unfair. You'd never see an MMA fight where one side isn't allowed to use armbars, so why are seeing a professional wrestling match where basically that same thing is happening. I'd really rather a commentator just not bring it up at all (it's not like it's something a viewer needs to know to understand the match)... or at least find a kayfabe way to spin it, like claiming that these guys haven't learned such complicated moves yet.
Other things I'd prefer that commentators not do include telling me that C.J. Parker, NXT undercard heel before NXT got super-hot, had "a major presence in a major organization," which might actually be the farthest stretch of the truth anyone (or at least anyone who we are not supposed to think is lying) has made in ROH since Kevin Kelly told us that Mike Mondo had "main evented" in WWE for "a number of years." Actually, now that I think about it, this statement is even more of a stretch than that because Kevin's claim about Mondo was actually technically true, as one fifteenth technically is a number, even though it's not a whole one.
I understand what Ian was trying to say here, but I think a much better way to phrase it would be to say something like Juice "left a steady paycheck from a major organization because he felt that he wasn't being given an opportunity to make it to the top" and thus Juice bravely risked everything for his dream etc. by joining New Japan. It gets the same message across, but it's more true and doesn't hurt your credibility in the eyes of those of us who saw C.J. Parker in NXT.
The reason Tenille was on commentary was to talk about LifeBlood. She and the commentators used a lot of very general statements and very few concrete examples of the wrongs LifeBlood feels they are here to correct. As was noted here the segment where they debut has not aired on TV yet so I haven't seen it, but I did read the article on the website, and from that I assumed that they were doing the sort of general "Honor" (the capital H is not a typo) thing; they're for fair play and not cheating and great competition, etc. I was thus a little thrown off when a specific was finally given in the form of Tenille condemning the NJPW young-boys for one of them running in to break up a pin. Is that against the rules? Yes. But it's something we see all the time and no one ever really has a problem with it. I was then doubly thrown off when Juice decked one of the young-boys when he was standing on the apron, which I'd think is just as much of a violation of the rules as running in to make the save (you're not supposed to attack the illegal wrestler). Are LifeBlood perhaps extremists and/or slightly hypocritical and are actually heels? We'll have to wait and see. That would certainly be a way to subvert expectations, though (and I can't help but notice that other than Tenille, all of them are outsiders/newcomers to ROH, and Tenille's "it's all about me" gimmick just screams "HEEL!" anyway, so I don't think it's at all out of the realm of possibility).
As for the actual wrestling match, it was decent for the time it got. Just like their Tokyo counterparts, NJPW's Los Angeles dojo students are certainly fundamentally sound, and Finlay & Juice were certainly generous with the offense they gave them.
PROVING GROUND MATCH:
ROH TV Champion Jeff Cobb vs. Clark Connors - squash
Katsuyori Shibata (who is now the head trainer at NJPW's LA dojo) made an appearance in front of the crowd before the match. He left, then Jeff Cobb proceeded to obliterate his student.
DALTON CASTLE & THE BOYS vs. SHANE TAYLOR & THE BRISCOES - 4.75/10
Beer City Bruiser provided guest commentary for this match. His character is painfully one-note, and I'm pretty much done with having any interest in him. Meanwhile, in the ring, stuff happened. The Boys were babyfaces in peril, Dalton got eh hot tag and ran wild on the heels. He eventually hit Jay with the Bang-a-rang and the referee counted "ONE! TWO!" and then Shane Taylor pulled the referee out of the ring.
Then something amazing happened. Referee Paul Turner scolded Taylor, and then rather than getting back in the ring, Turner ran over to where the timekeeper could see him and indicated that Taylor and the Briscoes had been disqualified. I popped SOOOOO huge for this! Finally someone is actually enforcing the rules! LOGIC is being prioritized over "that's be a cool false finish, wouldn't it?" Much to my delight, things proceeded to get even better in the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Loved it! Shane Taylor was upset about getting disqualified, so he shoved referee Paul Turner down. Ian Riccaboni exclaimed that would need to be fined or suspended for this. EXCELLENT!
The heels all attacked the babyfaces, but then Juice & Finlay (or "Fin-Juice" as they are apparently being called) ran in and made the save. Juice then grabbed a mic and scolded Taylor for his lack of honor, then cut a promo promising a lot of honorable action in tonight's main event in which his LifeBlood buddies Mark Haskins & Tracy Williams would take on Jonathan Gresham and ROH World Champion Jay Lethal. I CAN'T WAIT FOR THAT MATCH! They then offered Dalton Castle and handshake and he accepted.
MADISON RAYNE vs. HOLIDEAD (w/Thunder Rosa)- 4.75/10
The story was Madison overcoming Thunder Rosa's interference and getting the win. Twisted Sisters attacked Madison after the match and Sumie Sakai came out to chase the heels off with a steel chair.
MATT TAVEN PROMO - Good. He cut a short little promo in which he first put Rocky over as the only man other than himself to have held titles in ROH, NJPW, and CMLL, and then got his "Real ROH World Title" angle, claiming that sets Rocky apart from him is that unlike Rocky, he has held a world title. He offers to put his title on the line against Rocky and Rocky accepts, to their previously-scheduled match is now a...
"REAL ROH WORLD TITLE" MATCH:
Matt Taven(c) vs. Rocky Romero - 6.75/10
If Marseglia is under the f*cking ring and can't see Taven, how did he know that releasing the balloons would help Taven in any way? Also, the referee now knows that Marseglia is underneath the ring and that he has already tried to influence the outcome, why does he not order him ejected from ringside (using the microphone to make sure Marseglia knows)?
Anyway, aside from that stupid spot these guys had a very good match, which Taven won. Then, after the match, the rest of The Kingdom came out from backstage... so who lets f*cking balloons go? This seems like something that should be investigated immediately, no? There is an unauthorized person hiding under the ring and trying to help The Kingdom win.
They approach the ring and Marseglia PULLS OUT AN AXE! Taven and O'Ryan hold the fallen Rocky Romero in place while Marseglia brandishes said axe in a threatening manner and points towards Rocky. THEY'RE GOING TO MURDER ROCKY ROMERO! SOMEBODY SAVE HIM!
That's when Brody King's music hits and Brody comes out... and just stands there on the ramp as Ian Riccaboni, with nothing more than a shrug in his voice, says "the Kingdom was supposed to compete next anyway, so let's send it to Bobby Cruise for the introductions." WHAT? DOESN'T ANYONE CARE ABOUT ROCKY ROMERO'S LIFE?! At the very least you'd think ROH would want to prevent the inevitable diplomatic incident with New Japan that would result from ONE OF THEIR WRESTLERS MURDERING ONE OF NEW JAPAN'S WRESTLERS IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ROH RING.
I'm sorry. I just... don't understand what the point of this was. Why THREATEN A MURDER if no one is going to react to it like someone is threatening a murder?! And no, "He's Vinny Marseglia: The Horror King,'" is not a valid explanation because 1) it still doesn't excuse the obvious kayfabe issue that ignoring a THREAT OF MURDER creates, and 2) we know he's not actually going to hit anyone with a F*CKING AXE, so there is no element of horror here. Yes, pro wrestling is a fiction, but the fact that is performed as theater rather than as a motion picture- and specifically one where the performers do their best to ensure that the action itself looks as realistic as possible (by which I mean they're not doing what you'd see in a theater like stage slaps or stabbing people under the armpit- they're doing the sort of stuff you'd see from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team when they put together a fight scene). Marseglia's axe isn't gimmicked, and I know this because he's never actually hit anyone with it. If it was gimmick then he'd be swinging it around and he'd actually use it as a weapon instead of just carry it around and maybe occasionally hit people with the handle (which looks silly when he does it because you don't bring a sword to a fight just to try to hit people in the forehead with the hilt). So we know it's gimmicked, which means we know he's never going to use it, so there is no real threat and thus we feel no horror.
Stuff like this with Marseglia's axe gains nothing and only creates logic issues, so why does ROH keep doing it? It's hurting the shows and bring no benefit.
Anyway, PCO also came out, then Marty Scurll came out with his umbrella and chased Matt Taven away, so we moved on to...
TAG WARS 2019 FIRST ROUND MATCH:
Villain Enterprises (Brody King & PCO) vs. The Kingdom (T.K. O'Ryan & Vinny Marseglia) - 6.5/10
The match was decent. There was a double-heat. Marseglia tried to put Brody through a table right in front of the referee. He missed his big senton bomb off the top rope when Brody rolled out of the way and Vinny went through the table. Idiot. Villain Enterprises then both hit their finishers on O'Ryan and pinned him.
SILAS YOUNG vs. BANDIDO - 7.75/10
They had a GREAT match which Bandido won. He offered Silas a handshake after the match which Silas accepted... but then kicked Bandido right in the knee, injuring him. ROH did a good job of making this injury angle feel important, but it would have been nice if it was more than just one kick that caused such damage to Bandido's knee.
TAG WARS 2019 FIRST ROUND MATCH:
Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham vs. LifeBlood (Tracy Williams & Mark Haskins) - 8.25/10
Kenny King joined Colt and Ian on commentary for the main event. Colt and Willie Mack face off against Kenny King and a mystery partner in the first round of Tag Wars tomorrow night. Ian tried to get him to tell us who his mystery partner will be, but Kenny insisted on keeping it a mystery.
The match was wrestled completely cleanly, although unlike in their earlier match, LifeBlood had no problem whatsoever with more than one guy on a team being in the ring at the same time. LifeBlood worked over Lethal's arm while Lethal & Gresham worked over Tracy's knee. An awesome main event.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Decent. The babyfaces were all friendly with each other. Silas Young and Shane Taylor showed up on the ramp and took everyone's attention, allowing the Briscoes to slip out of the crowd and attack the babyfaces. They focused their attack on LifeBlood, who these guys face in an eight-man tag tomorrow night. They threw Tracy Williams' shoulder into the post (the one he wears a brace on), and we were also told that Bandido has been taken to a local medical facility to get evaluated so he can't help his comrades here. Finlay and Juice came out to try to make the save but they got beaten down as well. On commentary, Colt Cabana kept saying that he felt like he should go help but he never did, even after the fans were all chanting for him. Not cool, Colt.
This was a solid show from ROH. LifeBlood are certainly making me happy, and it definitely feels like there is a new direction now that Bullet Club is gone. The freshness of the roster makes it feel like we've got a lot of exciting match-ups ahead of us. Now if only Vinny Marseglia would go away, too.