TAG WARS 2019 FIRST ROUND MATCH:
The Bouncers vs. The Boys - 4/10
Dalton Castle was on commentary for this match. Today I learned that Dalton's Boys have a wheat allergy. The match was fine for the time it got and did a fine job with its "big vs. small" story.
SUMIE SAKAI vs. THUNDER ROSA (w/Holidead) - no rating, okay segment
They went a bit under two minutes before Holidead got caught interfering for the DQ (which was good because if you're going to do an angle like this then there is no reason for the first match to go any real length of time). Twisted Sisters beat Sumie up before Madison Rayne ran in to make the save, repaying the favor to Sumie for doing the same for her last night. Madison cut a promo on Twisted Sisters saying that they are "against everything that Women of Honor stands for" and demands that they step into the ring with a level playing field. Everyone agreed, so this turned into...
SUMIE SAKAI & MADISON RAYNE vs. TWISTED SISTERS - 3.5/10
Ian called this match (and the previous one) solo. The match was a meh babyface-in-peril match that ended on a roll-up where I was supposed to be outraged that the heels pulled Madison's tights for illegal leverage, but I couldn't stare at anything other than Madison Rayne's right shoulder, which was drawing my attention because the entire thing was several inches in the air rather than pinned to the mat, to the point where I was wondering how the hell Tod Sinclair could possibly have even seen her shoulders while counting this pinfall.
They did a bit post-match where Madison was very upset with this loss, but she seemed more of a sad kind of upset than the angry kind she should have been after cheated out of a match. Sumie tried to console her but Madison ignored her efforts and walked off.
TAG WARS 2019 FIRST ROUND MATCH:
Coast 2 Coast vs. Shinobi Shadow Squad (Eli Isom & Cheeseburger) (w/Ryan Nova) - 6.5/10
Rhett Titus joined Ian on commentary for this match. Coast 2 Coast looked very good in their return, and the Shinobi Shadow Squad help up their end of things as well.
VILLAIN ENTERPRISES vs. ALEX COUGHLIN, KARL FREDERICKS, & CLARK CONNORS - 4.25/10
This was basically an extended squash, but they gave the dojo guys enough to make it entertaining for nine minutes. That being said, I wouldn't have minded seeing two or three minutes taken from this match and given to something else.
MATT TAVEN PROMO - Bad. Blah blah blah real world champion, blah blah blah I'm a fighting champion but no one is worthy. Snore. It feels like he's been saying this for months. He then announces that he is refusing to wrestle his scheduled match against Jonathan Gresham tonight and T.K. O'Ryan is going to wrestle Gresham for him. Why is he being allowed to do this? As Ian's commentary indicated, we flans are clearly supposed to be disappointed that we're not getting to see the advertised match between two excellent competitors, so why isn't someone from management coming out and making sure that the fans aren't getting screwed?
On the bright side, O/Ryan was actually given a chance to talk during this. Is that a first?
JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. T.K. O'RYAN (w/Vinny Marseglia) - 4/10
Taven joined Ian Riccaboni on commentary for this match. He was unbearable, and not in a good "I want to see someone beat that heel up" way. He was unbearable in the "why do they let this guy talk so much" way. He's like every stereotypical cheating heel you ever saw took a bath in beige paint. His promos stink, his lackeys are meh at best (O'Ryan) or actively horrendous (Marseglia) and the need to book them on the shows drags the quality of the cards down, his angles almost always suck, those six-man tag titles that seem to revolve around him and his buddies are the most useless things in the company's entire history... I just don't understand what he and his buddies bring to the company. Sure, he can have some great matches, but so can a lot of other people.
O'Ryan finally got to show some personality here, but unfortunately that personality was that of a cartoon character. O'Ryan got some heat, Gresham made his comeback, got the Octopus...and then, predictably, f*cking Vinny "the only explanation for me having this job is that I have pictures of Delirious molesting a goat" Marseglia came out from under the ring with his stupid f*cking balloons...
WHAT THE F*CK IS EVEN THE POINT OF THAT?! He hangs out under the ring so that he can have the element of surprise but then he lets the f*cking balloons go off first, running said element of surprise? And if he's not doing it for the surprise factor, then why does he hide under the ring all the time?
Anyway, Marseglia distracts the referee so he doesn't see O'Ryan tap. Gresham gives up the hold to knock Marseglia off the apron, but now that O'Ryan has had time to recover he grabs a jackknife pin and gets his feet on the ropes for extra leverage for the win. Overkill much? It's not enough to protect Gresham with the interference, but we have to make sure T.K. has his feet on the ropes AND have him tap out while the referee wasn't looking. I understand wanting to protect Gresham in the loss, but they went so far with it that they BURIED O'Ryan while giving him the win. But congratulations to T.K. O'Ryan on his first win as a singles competitor in Ring of Honor. It only took you two years to get it (yes, I know he missed time, but he actually started in September 2016, so it evens out).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. The heels beat Gresham down as Paul Turner furiously orders them to stop and orders the bell to be continuously rung. Jay Lethal finally comes out to make the save and chase the heels away. Only AFTER Lethal has already made the save does security come out to try to corral The Kingdom. Where the hell were they before? Shouldn't they be waiting and at the ready for time they're needed. What else are they even doing?
Lethal grabs a mic and cuts a promo affirming that he, not Taven is the legitimate ROH World Champion and bringing the fans up to speed on Marseglia's vow to throw the ROH World Title in the trash if he wins it tonight. Lethal says he wants to have their match right now, Vinny and Tod Sinclair are both fine with this, so we get the...
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Jay Lethal(c) (w/Jonathan Gresham) vs. Vinny Marseglia - 2.25/10
Ian Riccaboni (now solo again) tells us that if Lethal wins tonight he will not only guarantee that he will pass Samoa Joe for most cumulative days as ROH World Champion but will also tie Bryan and Nigel's records for total defenses. But standing in his way of doing that is... well... let me put it this way?
How in the hell did Vinny Marseglia wind up with an ROH World Title shot? He has lost his last FIVE matches as a singles wrestler. His last singles victory was a win over Shaheem Ali at Masters of the Craft way back on April 29th, 2017. In fact, that victory is THE ONLY WIN HE HAS A SINGLES WRESTLER IN HIS ENTIRE ROH CAREER! He's 1-13! And somehow this is his SECOND shot at the ROH World Title. Are there ANY standards in this company?! Can I get an ROH World Title shot?
Yes, I know that this was supposed to be Sabin's shot and he got injured, and the idea of Marseglia saying he's going to beat Lethal just so he can throw the belt in the trash because Taven's belt is he real belt is really good, but ROH sanctioning this as a title matches makes zero sense, both because of Marseglia's abysmal record, and his recognizing of Taven's belt as the true world title. It feels like there wouldn't be any real danger here if management wasn't stupid, which has been a big problem in Delirious' booking. 90% of the time it feels like from a kayfabe point of view management doesn't give a sh*t about anything that happens to its wrestlers.
I think a better way to get to this same scenario would have been to do this match as a non-title match and create some sort of hell finish situation where Marseglia gets a dirty pin on Lethal and thus ROH management is backed into a corner and forced to give Marseglia a title match on one of the February shows. Or, if you aren't willing to have Lethal get pinned even in a situation that heavily protects him, you could do a Proving Ground Match but instead of trying to bravely fight Lethal, Vinny just focuses on running out the clock to earn a title shot in a thoroughly bullsh*t manner. THEN you can do the big match where we're worried Marseglia will win the title and then dump it in the trash.
Marseglia starts the match off by yanking the title belt away from Sinclair and punting it, causing Lethal to charge across the ring and dropkick him in the face. Sinclair then let them fight on the outside for over a minute without even starting to count them out. They quickly wound up back on the outside and Sinclair once again followed them to the outside to yell at them instead of counting. Marseglia grabs Lethal's belt from the timekeeper's table. And with the heel who just insulted all of them and threatened to throw the world title in the trash having now grabbed an illegal foreign object and standing over the babyface champion... the stupid fans started chanting "WE WANT TABLES!"
Maresglia is right in the downed Lethal's face with the title belt and Sinclair still isn't doing anything about it. Rather than try to beat Lethal so he can do the thing he said he was going to do, he decides to go look for his axe instead. When he finally manages to find it, Lethal dropkicks him and he drops it. Lethal did his big dive, but thankfully only did one this time before finally getting things back into the ring, reversal, reversal, Lethal hits some moves, Lethal Injection, pinfall.
This big world title match, wherein 1) the heel threatened to throw the title in trash if he won, and 2) Lethal would tie or set two very important records in the history of the championship... went a grand total of six minutes and thirty-three seconds. WHERE'S THE F*CKING DRAMA?! Why even do an angle like that if you're not even going to try to get anything out of it?! And if you don't trust Maresglia to be able to go any more than seven minutes with a guy the caliber of Jay Lethal then he shouldn't even be in the company!
ROH WOMEN OF HONOR WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Kelly Klein(c) (w/Camp Klein) vs. Britt Baker - 3.5/10
Mandy Leon joined Ian on commentary for this match. The match went less than five minutes, but what we got was good. Kelly stopped by the commentary table after the match to cut a promo on her opponent tomorrow night, Sumie Sakai.
TAG WARS 2019 FIRST ROUND MATCH:
Colt Cabana & Willie Mack vs. Kenny King & MVP - 6.75/10
MVP got a shockingly large reaction for someone who has been irrelevant and off the radar for the past few years. He and Kenny wore those ugly Beat Down Clan masks from TNA and the beginning of MVP's music said "Beat Down Clan." Is TNA letting them use the name? And more importantly... why would ROH let them use that awful name?
Colt and MVP did some comedy here in this important tournament. MVP was... fine. Kenny & MVP won clean in a match that felt like it should have been better than it was considering that this was the first match tonight to go more than fifteen minutes and just the second (after C2C vs. SSS match) to go more than ten.
PROVING GROUND MATCH:
ROH TV Champion Jeff Cobb vs. Rocky Romero vs. Dalton Castle (w/the Boys) - 6.5/10
This time around the rules for a Proving Ground Match are that if anyone other than Cobb wins they get a title shot, no matter if they get the fall on Cobb or the other guy.
Dalton and Cobb started off with a stare-down and ignored Rocky's attempts to get involved. When Rocky tried to physically insert himself into their stare-down, they just shoved him out of the way and kept staring at each other. Eventually Rocky got really annoyed and dropkicked Dalton from behind into Cobb, and then things really started. They went a bit under ten minutes. There was pretty good action here, but the real story is Rocky Romero shocking the world by getting the pin on Dalton. Does this mean that Rocky is beating Bandido tomorrow? Because that really shouldn't happen.
The Briscoes, Silas Young, Shane Taylor, & Bully Ray vs. LifeBlood (Mark Haskins, Juice Robinson, Tracy Williams, & David Finlay Jr.) - 7.75/10
Tenille Dashwood joined Ian commentary. This match was not originally scheduled to have Bully Ray in it but he got added via a stupid pre-match angle. Said angle saw Bully come out after everyone else entered and cut a promo. He took credit for the group of the running Bullet Club out of ROH. He then started to yell at Tod Sinclair for supposedly screwing him out of his I Quit Match at Final Battle because Bully claims he never said "I quit." He demanded that Sinclair make this match five-on-four or else he would kick his ass.
Thankfully, Juice snatched the mic away from Bully. It's to see someone stick up for the poor referee. Juice insisted that Bully doesn't call the shots but rather the fans call the shots. Juice then asked the fans if they'd like to see the babyface wrestle at a disadvantage and they all said yes, and Juice happily accepted this. So basically, Juice is an idiot and the fans are mean.
The match started with a bunch of stalling on the part of Bully Ray. He yelled stuff at young Mr. Finlay about the elder Mr. Finlay, which got David angry and the babyfaces all tried to hold him back. WHY?! It's the middle of a match and he's the legal man! By the time we finally got a lock-up in this match FIFTEEN MINUTES had passed since the entrances began, over seven since Bully came out, and about three since the handicap stipulation had been agreed to by all sides.
Anyway, stuff happened, we got the shine, we got some extended heat on Juice, and then, when all of the babyfaces had been knocked off of the apron and Juice needed someone to tag, out hobbled Bandido, his ribs all taped up, to be there for Juice in his moment of need. He hops up onto the apron... and Sinclair just lets him in the match?! You can't just add people in the middle of a match!
Look... believe it or not, I try to go out of my way to come up with reasons for why things might be allowed. Bandido is part of LifeBlood, so if Juice had said "the five of you vs. LifeBlood) I could buy the idea that there are grounds for claiming that Bandido was part of the match from the beginning. But that's not what happened. Juice specifically said "the five of you against the four of us." That right there defines Bandido has not being part of the match, and you can't just add people in the middle! Was this all dramatic? Yes. But I don't think that drama you have to turn your brain off for counts as good drama.
I also think the whole handicap thing just didn't work because there were too many people involved. It never felt like the heels' numerical advantage did anything for them. It just felt like any other big tag team match, though this one just happened to be 5-on-4 instead of 5-on-5 or 4-on-4.
This whole match was tough for me to rate in that there is no doubt that they had a story or two and it was well-structured and well-executed, but the problem (aside from the Bandido thing) was that the story was mostly all built around Bully Ray (and setting up Juice and Finlay getting revenge on him in the end), and I don't think that was the right thing for this match to focus on at all. The focus should have been on all of the cool, fresh match-ups the presence of LifeBlood provides us with, and on Shane Taylor getting a chance to show his stuff in the main event. Instead, this was 85% "Bully Ray gets the heat," which we just spent an entire year watching and it lead to a pathetically overbooked and boring clusterf*ck. Quite frankly, I think it would have been for the best to just not use Bully Ray here and to not do last night's injury angle with Bandido and just have him participate in the Proving Ground Match as he was originally scheduled to do (I mean... is Delirious allergic to delivering an advertised card?).
This show was definitely a step down from what we've seen so far this year from ROH. There was too many matches (ELEVEN. Ten if you want to count the Twisted Sisters vs. Madison & Sumie stuff as one match), which resulted in almost nothing getting enough time to really deliver other than MVP/Kenny vs. Cabana/Willie Mack- which was disappointing- and the main event... which, quite frankly, also didn't deliver to the level I think most people would expect if you gave them those names and told them the match was going twenty-five minutes. Taking Taven vs. Gresham off the card and replacing it with an overbooked water-treading match where Gresham faced a much worse opponent didn't help matters either. I can't help but think that even if Delirious stays on as booker, the shows would be a lot better if certain talents (and you can probably guess who I mean) just left the promotion (and were not replaced with someone else coming in just to fill up a roster spot). While the storylines still wouldn't be good, at least we wouldn't have so many matches being dragged down. Hopefully tomorrow night's show gets us back on track.