ROH/NJPW Honor Rising 2019: Day 1





ROH/NJPW Honor Rising 2019: Day 1

By Big Red Machine
From February 22, 2019

ROH/NJPW Honor Rising 2019: Day 1

MARTY SCURLL vs. REN NARITA - 6/10


Why is that third wrestler in the ring? What? That guy's a referee? Then why is he wearing an elbow pad, wristbands, and an ROH t-shirt rather than an official ROH or NJPW referee's t-shirt?

SHOTA UMINO vs. ZACK SABRE JR. (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 8/10


Two competitors came out to the ring and professionally wrestled each other and it was GLORIOUS. This was a wonderful sporting contest between an up-and-coming young wrestler and an experienced veteran and they went out there and wrestled and the kid really looked like he could win but just came up short.

JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER & JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. BULLET CLUB (Robbie Eagles & Taiji Ishimori) - 3/10 + a FANTASTIC segment!


Basically Gresham and Eagles wrestled each other for a few minutes. Then Ishimori and Liger got tagged in... and Liger immediately caught Ishimori in a flash pin and got the victory, with Ishimori kicking out at 3.000001. The crowd went NUTS for this. It also very cleverly both allows them to not give anything at all away before their IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match at the 47th Anniversary Show and also builds up any roll-up Liger gets during the course of that match as a real, credible false finish. BRILLIANT!

TOMOAKI HONMA, TOA HENARE, & LIFEBLOOD (David Finlay Jr. & Juice Robinson) vs. THE BRISCOES & THE GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY (w/Hikuleo & Jado) - 5.75/10


The heels had some issues which popped up now and again throughout the match and played into the finish, but they did a good job of not letting this strangle the match like you'll often see. The issues were there, but neither side felt like they were being overdramatic about things. Said finish saw a Jado cane shot accidentally hit a Briscoe, who was then rolled up by Juice for the pin to build to tomorrow night's ROH World Tag Team Title match. The referee did an ATROCIOUS job of positioning himself so he couldn't see Jado's various interference.

For those who were wondering, "snapped" Tama Tonga acts no differently from pre-snapping storyline Tama Tonga. Another waste of time "story" brought to you by Gedo and Bullet Club. And speaking of wastes, Hikuleo made his long return from injury here... and did absolutely nothing. Wouldn't it have been a lot better to hold him off the shows until a moment where he can have some impact, like being a mystery partner for his brothers, or interfering to help them win the tag titles?

POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Fine. The Briscoes brawl with the Guerrillas of Destiny and manage to chase them off. This builds to a future match that should be a decent heel vs. heel encounter.

NEVER OPENWEIGHT SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Toru Yano, Togi Makabe, & Ryusuke Taguchi(c) vs. Colt Cabana, Cheeseburger, & Delirious - 1/10


Delirious, Cabana, & Burger have done literally nothing to earn this title shot... but who else could possibly challenge for the belts? It's not like Cheeseburger is part of a rather successful trio in ROH with Eli Isom and Ryan Nova.

When you see these six names you probably expect a comedy match, but we didn't get one until very far in when Yano started his Stupid Yano Tricks. This is a title match so there shouldn't be comedy in it... but then why are you booking these six guys against each other in a title match if everyone is going to expect comedy and not get it?

The NJPW guys got the heat on Cheeseburger, who felt like he was back to being his old joke-self rather than the confident professional wrestler who has emerged in ROH over the past few months, which felt like a major step backwards. The champs retained after Yano hit Delirious in the nuts. Delirious hit Cabana in the nuts after the match, and Delirious and Cheeseburger angrily walked off, which apparently leads to a tag team match tomorrow night.

NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Will Ospreay(c) vs. Dalton Castle (w/the Japanese Boys) - 7.75/10


I'm going to pick a nit here: If Dalton is going to have Japanese Boys, they absolutely should not be easily-recognizable Young Lions! Washing the veterans' gear and cooking their food is one thing, but forcing them to be Dalton's submissives for the night feels like the NJPW Dojo is crossing a line here. And if that's not what's going on, how to you explain their behavior changing for this one weekend?

Dalton is apparently back to doing his wacky posing, and I'm supposed to believe that Ospreay is thrown off by it or something. It's everything I hated about pre-2018 Dalton Castle coming back. Uch. I thought he had moved past that goofy crap. To their credit, they managed to incorporate it into the story of the match, but I'd have rather they just started with the aggression level they did and ramped it up throughout then to start the way they did and use this to first bring it down so that they could bring it back up again.

The match was pretty great, with both guys working over the head and neck, but in different ways. Ospreay was the striker, going for that one big knockout blow, while Dalton was the power wrestler trying to suplex and DDT Ospreay onto his head. Given this story, I found the Stormbreaker to be an odd choice for a finish as oppose dot the Os-Cutter.

Yes, that means that Ospreay won, which brings me to the other big weakness this match suffered from, which was that the predictability of the result made it so that none of Dalton's nearfalls felt convincing. Considering that Dalton's current story in ROH is that he's been on a losing streak and getting frustrated, him getting this title shot makes no sense at all. It would have both made more sense and made a wider range of finishes seem possible if this had been booked as a non-title match with the idea being that Dalton was trying to win the match to earn a future shot at the NEVER Openweight Title (at the joint MSG show, perhaps).

There is one other thing that I think hurt this match, but this one really isn't the fault of the wrestlers or even the booker. There were several times where the angle of the camera shot was exposing that Dalton's strikes were not making the contact they were supposedly making (like a running knee to the face in the corner clearly missing, with the contact coming from Dalton's shin hitting Ospreay's shoulder). When this is happening, the cameraperson should know enough to move and/or the director should be smart enough to cut to a different camera! This is not rocket science.

WILL OSPREAY PROMO - Great! Traditionally the IWGP Heavyweight Champion wrestles the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion at the Anniversary Show, but because Taiji Ishimori already has a title defense booked against Liger, that can't happen this year, so Ospreay suggests that he- a junior heavyweight who happens to hold another singles championship- be the one to get the title shot instead.

I feel the need to take this tie to compliment Gedo on the ordering of all of the pieces for this. Ishimori challenging Liger at New Beginning in Osaka 2019 so that that match was already booked before we knew who the IWGP Heavyweight Champion would be coming out of that show created a situation where there was an actual reason to not do the usual heavyweight champ vs. junior heavyweight champ match other than the lazy, idiotic "because they're in the same stable" excuse that I was worried they would use. That leaves Jay White looking for a partner, and a junior heavyweight holding an openweight title is a perfectly logical substitute.

ROH TV TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Cobb(c) vs. Hirooki Goto - 6.5/10


I was wondering why Goto was getting this title shot, but I did some digging and it turns out that he has won every single match he has been in for the past two months other than the six-man tag gauntlet at Wrestle Kingdom, so he does indeed seem like a worthy challenger for Cobb. I'd feel a little better if any of them were singles wins, but this is New Japan, where you don't get singles matches unless you're at the very top of your division or the very bottom of it, so I'll take what I can get.

I'm sorry to get back on the referee's attire thing, but Tod Sinclair in a referee's shirt is a man with authority. Tod Sinclair in an "Honor is Real" t-shirt is just some shlub walking around the ring during a wrestling match.

Goto turned heel by assaulting a Young Lion and then suplexing him onto Cobb. Using a another human being as a foreign object should probably be a DQ, but even if you don't think this counts as cheating, kicking the guy in the gut out of nowhere and throwing him on someone is still a dick move. Just ask the kid first. Do you really think some dojo trainee is going to say no to a veteran in a situation like this?

The match was very dry. Goto tried some very un-Goto things like a grounded headscissors and a diving elbow drop. It was certainly interesting, but didn't make for a very exciting match. If not for the missed diving elbow drop I would wonder if Goto was hurt (he has been kept off of the last few NJPW tours).

THE KINGDOM vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JAY LETHAL, & KAZUCHIKA OKADA - 6.5/10


The match was... I guess it's fair to call it a disappointment, but that's really only because I thought Tanahashi and Okada might be good enough to carry Matt Taven's Scrub Club to an acceptable main event (we've already seen in ROH that Lethal can't do it, despite valiant efforts), but alas they were not. They can have great matches with Bad Luck Fale, but Vinny Marseglia is beyond even their ability to carry.

The match was just fourteen minutes of some stuff. And yes, you read that time correctly; this main event six-man tag got less time than the singles match pitting most banged up guy in ROH against the most banged up guy in New Japan. It ended when Lethal pinned Marseglia, which does nothing to build up to either Lethal's ROH World Title defense tomorrow night against T.K. O'Ryan or his title defense next month at ROH's 17th Anniversary Show against Matt Taven. It's also the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions doing a job that will almost certainly never be followed up on (meanwhile, I must point out, NJPW's six-man tag champs got to get a win over three ROH guys).

And for anyone saying "well what other finish would you have done?" I would say let Taven get a pin on Tanahashi, who isn't doing anything right now in New Japan.

"But Gedo would never allow that!" you insist. Okay... then let Taven get another pin on Lethal.

"But they just did that at the previous show," you tell me. Okay... then have the Kingdom get DQed by going after Lethal with weapons to soften him up for their title shots.

"But no one wants to see a DQ, especially in the main event," you insist. Okay, fine. Then do a time-limit draw.

"Are you crazy? Vinny Marseglia and T.K. O'Ryan hanging in there for thirty minutes against OKADA and TANAHASHI? That's RIDICULOUS!" you tell me.

Now it's my turn to yell: If you can't book a productive finish then DON'T BOOK THE F*CKING MATCH IN THE FIRST PLACE! Why not just avoid wasting the money flying The Kingdom to Japan give us Lethal vs. Okada going to a thirty-minute Broadway tonight, and have Lethal team with Tanahashi against LIJ tomorrow instead of The Kingdom. Why would you fly your next PPV world title challenger and his ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champion partners over to Japan just to have them do a bunch of jobs (which is exactly what happened this tour)!

Final Thoughts
This was a very frustrating show from ROH and New Japan. I really think they need to stop doing inter-promotional title matches on these shows without significant build. They throw all of these title matches out there completely cold and with very little reason for why said title match is happening other than a transparent attempt to make the show feel bigger than it is, and the fact that it's so transparent results in it cheapening the titles more than helping the show. Furthermore, no one ever believes the titles will actually change hands, which makes the matches feel even less important (and the one time a title actually did change hands, the guy who won it did nothing with it, then lost it back at the next joint show, achieving nothing but keeping the title away from ROH during an important period of the year). This is a crutch that both of these bookers have relied too much on in the past few years instead of focusing on solid storytelling, and the sooner they throw the crutch away, the better.

I'm totally serious here. Neither promotion's six-man tag titles have any reason to exist and didn't even have a reason to exist when they were created, but they created them anyway. The same really goes for NJPW's US Title. While I understand the marketing reasons for the Women of Honor World Title, I'm still not convinced that ROH has room for the division if they're going to rely so much on their one-hour weekly TV show to tell most of the stories, and certainly not if they're insistent on keeping the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles and trying to have a healthy division for them (and I'm certain the booker either lacks the attention span or the will to make them worthwhile, just based on what we've seen since each title's creation).

The rest of the show was very paint-by-numbers, with the exception of the wonderful ZSJ vs. Umino match... and that should be a wake-up call to everyone if a f*cking young-boy had the best match on the show, second on the card! They certainly built a bit towards tomorrow night (and perhaps beyond) in the eight-man tag and even, dumb as it is, in the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Title match, and the good for NJPW's Anniversary Show was solid, but the inter-promotional part of this- which is supposedly what the big draw is- felt painfully lacking.

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