TRACY WILLIAMS vs. RUSH - 6.75/10
They fought on the outside FOREVER without getting counted out. Cabana put Tod Sinclair over for doing his job well by preventing Rush from using a chair, but how is he doing his job well if he's not counting the wrestlers out when they are fighting on the outside? Is it really that hard to have the referee count and always make sure one guy is able to quickly slide in and right back out again to reset the count when it gets to the high teens?
Other than that they had a very solid opening match, but that was really about it. Rush built up his moves well and Tracy worked over his neck, but this feels like a match that should have been better and felt bigger than it was. The match quality issue was really due to the time they were given (just twelve and a half minutes), but as for the match not feeling bigger, well... let me put it like this:
Ian Riccaboni claimed that Tracy Williams is "a bona fide main eventer here in ROH," and while he did provide some examples, all of the examples he gave were tag matches, which makes it feel like a very specious claim to me, and double so because it's not like he really has a set tag team partner so much as he just teams with whichever other LifeBlood members might need a partner that night. LifeBlood as a unit feel like they're sort of a main event group, but no one in the group other than perhaps Bandido feels like an actual "main eventer" to me, just based off of the way they're used. I know that Tracy, Bandido, Haskins, Tenille, and Juice all have the talent for it, none of them other than Bandido have really been pushed to feel like anything too important without the LifeBlood name tacked onto them... and even that is starting to lose its appeal to me because they're been around for three months now and they haven't actually done anything yet.
I mean... what actually is LifeBlood? They're just a bunch of dudes. Sure, they've got a mission statement, but they don't really feel like they've done much of anything to work towards that end (or if they have then they haven't done a very good job of explaining what and how). They will occasionally run in to make some saves, but they don't seem to do it more than any other babyface does. They say they want to stand for honor and stuff like that but they don't really do much of anything too different from babyfaces like Jay Lethal, Jonathan Gresham, Jeff Cobb, or Shinobi Shadow Squad or even the freshly-turned Bouncers or recently-returned Coast 2 Coast. They're just good babyface workers having good matches. You can throw a bunch of them into a main event and it will start to feel like a big match, but until you give them some actual character-work to do, they just feel like another hollow Delirious idea; five men and one woman whose entire existence is one broad brushstroke.
What they need to be is a rainbow. To be defined. To be given experiences that color them. That give them an individual role to play in the group's story and to illustrate for us how the group as a whole fits into larger ROH ecosystem. Until that happens, Tracy Williams- or anyone else in the group- might as well just be "Generic LifeBlood Wrestler #3," and no matter how many main event tags he winds up in, "Generic LifeBlood Wrestler #3" is not a main eventer.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Dalton Castle came out and cut a very confident promo on Rush to build up their match at G1 Supercard, while Ian Riccaboni did a good job on commentary of letting us in on the important idea that Dalton really seems to need a win, leaving us to wonder whether or not Dalton is perhaps being a little overconfident or might stoop to doing something wrong in order to get that win.
SHINOBI SHADOW SQUAD vs. COLIN DELANEY & COAST 2 COAST - 6/10
Rhett Titus showed up with his stupid bodybuilding trophy to do commentary and try to make us care about him and his feud with Will Ferrara, which is apparently still a thing. Does Delirious actually think people care about the interminable undercard horsesh*t feuds he books? Does he not get that his own terrible booking has destroyed the possibility of anyone caring about any of these feuds by having them take f*cking forever to eventually result in absolutely nothing of consequence?
These six had a solid match for the time they got. Why do Rhett Titus and Will Ferrara have a storyline but Coast 2 Coast do not?
SILAS YOUNG vs. MARK HASKINS - 6.75/10
The first time these two went to the outside, Sinclair began to count them out like he's supposed to. The second time they went to the outside, when it was time for the big injury spot, he didn't count them out at all and instead just went to the outside and yelled at them. Said injury spot was Haskins' knee, which Haskins sold extremely well... until it was time to do all of his cool running around stuff, at which point he pretty much stopped selling it. Silas also never went back to the knee after that initial big heat segment, which was pretty weird.
They had some good nearfalls towards the end, but I really didn't like the finish. Said finish was that spot where the babyface goes for a sunset flip but the heel sits down on him, then grabs the ropes and the referee kicks the heel's hands off the ropes, allowing the babyface to roll the heel up for the pin. I think this makes the referee look horribly biased. Sure, the heel's pin shouldn't count, but if the heel is grabbing the ropes then the referee should make the babyface stop trying to pull the heel over for the sunset flip, too. And why is the referee kicking the heel's hands off of the ropes instead of starting a five-count like you would normally do in this situation? Ian tried to cover this over by claiming that he "heard Sinclair get to four; if it he had gotten to five it would have been a disqualification," but (leaving aside for the moment the fact that I went back and checked and Sinclair was never counting-) if that's the case then why did Sinclair kick Silas' hands off of the rope instead of just continuing to five and calling for a DQ? The rules just seem to work differently for this one spot, making the whole thing feel phony.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. Silas, angry over the loss, kicks Haskins in the groin. He screams at Sinclair, and Bully Ray comes out to do the same. For what is probably the first time in his entire ROH run, I completely agreed with Bully. Tod's job is to make counts, not kick someone's hands off the rope.
Bully notes that Sinclair put his hands on him during his I Quit Match with Flip Gordon at Final Battle, too, and once again claims that Sinclair awarded Gordon the match even though Bully never said "I Quit." It's been three months, so can someone please remind me whether Bully actually quit or not? Because if he didn't then he's fully justified and Sinclair is either biased or a moron, and if he didn't, why does Delirious think an angle based around a guy getting stupid cheap bullsh*t heat for outright lying about the fact that he lost is really a productive thing to be doing in 2019? If you want to prove yourself to be an alternative to WWE, cartoony bullsh*t characters like this are not the way to go.
Bully demands that Sinclair reverse the decision. I'm not sure whether he's talking about Silas' match or Bully's. What I do know is that we are back to Colt Cabana sitting there at the commentary position and begging for someone to come out and help poor Tod Sinclair instead of getting up off of his ass and actually helping Sinclair. Didn't we move past this nine months ago?
Bully threatens to beat Haskins up if Sinclair doesn't reverse the decision. Sinclair won't do it, so Bully tells Silas to get the table... and the fans all cheer because tables even though the big mean liar heel named "Bully" and his pal are going to use said table to injure an innocent person in the hopes of intimidating a referee into changing what we are supposed to see as a perfectly clean and valid match result where the babyface won. Wrestling fans in 2019 are stupid.
The announcers are beginning for someone to come out and help. This seems like the sort of thing LifeBlood should be putting a stop to, no? Also, it's their own f*cking guy who is about to get put through this table.
Ah. Here they are. That took entirely too f*cking long.
Juice cuts a promo on Bully that also went on way too long, seemingly just so Bully could be on screen for more time. I mean really. Just f*cking say what you want to say, Juice. No one gives a sh*t if Bully's is standing ten feet away from you or two inches. All you're doing is wasting my f*cking time, and whoever thought it was in some way beneficial for us to get a solid minute of Juice calling Bully a coward and Bully teasing getting into the ring should be flogged.
Juice says he is accepting Bully's open challenge at MSG. LifeBlood left the ring while Bully hung around to yell at Cary and the timekeeper some more to yell at Bobby Cruise and the timekeeper just because. I don't have any inside scoops on why Tenille Dashwood didn't sign a new contract with ROH, but if I had to guess, I'd say that Bully Ray talking segments like this one often getting almost as much time as the Women of Honor matches usually get had something to do with it.
KRIS STADTLANDER & TASHA STEELZ vs. GABBY ORTIZ & KARISSA RIVERA vs. JENNY ROSE & SUMIE SAKAI - 4.25/10
A great deal of time was wasted in the beginning with no one wanting to wrestle Kris Stadtlander because she was being weird and walking like Bray Wyatt. Why are you all so afraid of this woman? Just throw a basement dropkick at her head or go for a double-stomp or run to her side faster than she can turn and punt her in the ribs!
Then, instead of someone actually getting up the nerve to go after Stadtlander, she just got up and tagged out. Throughout the rest of her stints in the match, she never went back to any of that stuff again... so then what was the point of doing it at all?!
The match was very much "just there." Jenny Rose was wrestling like a heel even though she was Sumie's partner. Stadtlander got the win, so at least they used this to introduce someone new rather than just put Sumie over again.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Are we in Bizarro World or something? Kelly Klein comes out and cuts this total babyface promo about how proud she is to be a member of the Women of Honor division and she says she'll regain the title from Mayu Iwatani at MSG and that if any of the women out here right now want a title shot then all they have to do is ask. Sumie Sakai then stepped up to Kelly, took the mic, and was a total jerk, telling her it doesn't matter how many chances she gets, she'll never beat Mayu. Then Kelly asked for the mic back, but instead of giving it to her, Sumie put it in the mat and left. Not only was Sumie EXTREMELY rude for absolutely no reason, but seeing her serving as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the absent Mayu Iwatani made Sumie feel like a complete and total secondary character... which is what she should be, but the fact that she was portrayed as the be-all, end-all babyface of the women's division who was the first champion and help the belt for eight months makes reducing her to this feel like it buries the title, too, because she is the person most associated with it.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Villain Enterprises(c) (Brody King & PCO) vs. The Briscoes - 7.5/10
They had the expected great brawl, but Tod Sinclair did an atrocious job of refereeing, not really even trying to impose order at any point, so of course someone eventually hit someone with a chair to cause a DQ. They brawled afterwards, which was mostly the Briscoes destroying Villain Enterprises. While the finish was certainly frustrating, it does feel like it keeps the necessary level of heat in this feud (though I think starting off with a no DQs match was a little silly), and doing the finish the way they did (technically it was a double DQ, as we had one chair shot, then one right back before Sinclair could order the bell rung for the first one so he just disqualified both teams) does serve to keep the Briscoes alive as challengers, and when combined with the idea that a Briscoes victory here would have shut Villain Enterprises out of the big double-titles match at MSG mean that making this a title match did serve an actual purpose (whereas they otherwise could have achieved the same goals with a six-man tag pitting all of VE against the Briscoes and Shane Taylor and either done the same DQ or had Scurll go over on Taylor, then had the Briscoes attack VE after the match to lead to the same beat-down), so going to a DQ in a title match (and especially one where no one thought we would see a title change in the first place) doesn't seem as cheap as it otherwise might.
MSG VIDEO PACKAGE - F*CKING AWESOME! This sort of thing made running MSG feel not just like a big deal from the business end of things but also from a kayfabe one as well. This is a video package that couldn't have been done about Barclay's Center or some other similarly-sized arena to MSG.
That being said, Taven and Scurll were both a little too over the top with their "maybe this was intended to be my moment" bit. Taven's in particular seems like something that should lead to a change in his character where (especially if he wins the title) he begins to think that the company is secret supporting him instead of holding him down.
KENNY KING vs. P.J. BLACK - 7.25/10
A great athletic match, although Black came off like a dick to me when he told a downed Kenny to "shake my hand before I beat you." There were a few seconds where I thought this was intended as a way to start turning Kenny babyface, but then he cheated to pick up the win.
KENNY KING PROMO - GREAT! He just signed a new contract with ROH... and the first thing they do is put him in the freakin' Honor Rumble?! Kenny is not cool with being disrespected in this manner! But he is going to use it to motivate himself. He "demands" to be the first entrant in the Honor Rumble so he can prove how much better he is than all of the ROH "losers" "decrepit old Japanese legends." I want to see Kenny King win this match SOOOOOO BADLY.
WINNER GETS MARTY SCURLL'S SPOT IN THE ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH AT G1 SUPERCARD"
Marty Scurll(c) vs. Shane Taylor - 6/10
This started out as a good big-man vs. little man match, with Taylor using his size to work over Marty's midsection by crushing him and clubbing away with his big forearms while Marty tried to work over Taylor's shoulder while using strikes to cut him down to size. Unfortunately, the match was derailed with a stupid, overbooked finish. Taven came out and distracted both Marty and the referee, allowing Taylor to hit Marty in the nuts, then punch him in the face with a steel chain. Taylor went for the cover and got the three-count. Then ROH Senior Referee Tod Sinclair ran out to the ring to tell Paul Turner what happened, and the match was restarted, with Marty immediately grabbing Taylor in a Crossface Chickenwing and getting the victory. You can't have a second referee run out form backstage after a dirty finish to overturn the assigned referee's call unless you're prepared to kill all heel finishes by making that the new standard, because there is no good answer to why it should happen this time, but not the next time when you want someone to cheat to win. Also, if the idea is that Sinclair is coming out to tell Turner about Taylor's cheating, then shouldn't Turner have just disqualified Shane Taylor instead of ordering the match restarted?
This whole thing got no heat on Taven because the finish was overturned, opened up a big gaping plot hole, and gave us a f*ck finish where none was necessary... and all for what? Ten seconds of shocking people before you go back and conform to their expectations anyway?
I also thought they missed a big opportunity with Taylor here. He's coming off what felt like a break-out match at the PPV and now he's in the semi-main event wrestling a top star who is also a very talented worker. This was the spot where you give Taylor a another very strong loss while giving him the time to once again blow us away with his in ring performance in order to build up cache with the fans in order to let us know that Shane Taylor is someone we should be excited to see on a card. What we got here felt like a big step backwards from the guy we saw at the 17th Anniversary Show. This was "9-13 minute undercard space-filling heel Shane Taylor" and "oh f*ck we wanted him for a tag team but his partner signed with someone else and now we're stick with him so I guess we have to book him" Shane Taylor.
JAY LETHAL & JEFF COBB vs. THE KINGDOM (Vinny Marseglia & T.K. O'Ryan) vs. LIFEBLOOD (Juice Robinson & Bandido)- 7.25/10
This was an action-packed athletic match that suffered from having no particularly engaging story and the fact that the match itself felt completely pointless. Sure Lethal is feuding with The Kingdom's leader Matt Taven, but Cobb and Lethal only feel like they're teaming together because Gresham wasn't available and LifeBlood were thrown in here because getting put in random matches is really all they do. You knew the moment the match started that The Kingdom were taking the loss so you knew the finish wouldn't actually matter, so there was no real reason to care.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Dull. Taven and Scurll came out and they and Lethal had a lifeless stare-down that felt 100% like it was something that was "booked" to happen rather than something that happened for any natural reason.
This was a disappointing show from ROH. The card felt very promising on paper, but once we got to the matches, the pointless nature of the card really shined through, poisoning some strong performances by the wrestlers. This show felt like a major step backwards storyline-wise from what we have seen so far in 2019. This felt like 2016-2018 "XYZ Tour: Cityburg" show, where the card was just a bunch of matches thrown together and you were lucky if even one of them had any real storyline relevance. It felt like a show that Creative forgot that they had scheduled, and the fact that they named it as the fourth show of a tour whose other matches all took place over the course of one weekend TEN WEEKS AGO with multiple other named shows between them only added to this fact.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Colt Cabana- "This was not the game plan for Mark Haskins. No intention to be taken out by the knee."
So you're telling me his game plan didn't involve the other guy injuring him? No sh*t.