HONOR RUMBLE - 7/10
We finally got a payoff to Rhett Titus not knowing where Will Ferrara was. Said payoff was Ferrara coming out as an entrant in the Honor Rumble, and he and Rhett just started working together again. That was definitely worth Rhett Titus showing up and detracting from the commentary at least once a show for several months, wasn't it?
Cheeseburger got the "my feet didn't technically touch the floor so I'm not eliminated" spot. Tracy Williams and Minoru Suzuki facing off was kind of cool. Liger got a standing ovation.
This match was, in essence, a very good Royal Rumble where the fans really didn't care about the idea of any of the wrestlers in it getting a title shot. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I really don't mean it as one. Nothing had been done to build up anyone in here other than Kenny King, and I don't think anyone Suzuki to win because New Japan probably wouldn't want him to do a job for the ROH World Champion, and I don't think anyone thought they would even put the title on Suzuki or Ishii or Goto so the idea of them winning wasn't exciting. But the booking of this match clearly understood that, and so it was laid out in such a way as to just let the fans cheer for the legends for as long as they could, and then get some real heat on Kenny King for pulling the rug out from under everyone at the end. I did not think that the legends getting any sort of revenge on Kenny after the match was a good idea, though.
TITLE VS. TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Cobb(ROH TV Champion) vs. Will Ospreay(NEVER Openweight Champion) - 8.25/10
This match was almost entirely big moves, but they did a fantastic job of making every move matter and creating a match that both built up and flowed very well. The result was one hell of an opener, and a cutter spot that Randy Orton is going to have an extremely tough time topping.
RUSH vs. DALTON CASTLE - no rating, good segment
Dalton got the big "WrestleMania entrance" here with lots of Boys. One of the Boys accidentally dropped his fan in the ring which distracted Dalton, and Rush charged in with his big dropkick, hit his finisher and got the pin. Dalton turned on the Boys after the match even though it was really his fault for allowing himself to get distracted, so Dalton is a heel now. This was a well-executed segment that pays off a storyline that has been building for months, sets up a rematch with a built-in reason for why the outcome might be different, and was a clever way to save time on a show with so many matches on it.
JUICE ROBINSON HAS BEEN LAID OUT BACKSTAGE - An unknown assailant was seen running out of the locker room. The assailant had dark hair, and we can rule out that he is overweight, and we can rule-out that he is an African-American based on his skin tone, but that's all we know. Notably, Bully Ray had vowed that Juice would not make it to their match, so he is almost certainly behind this, but he clearly has an accomplice.
ROH WOMEN OF HONOR WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Mayu Iwatani(c) (w/Sumie Sakai) vs. Kelly Klein (w/Camp Klein) - 7.25/10
Kelly sent Camp Klein to the back, confusing the hell out of me because now she seems like she's a babyface again. They also had a match full of big moves, but they weren't as big and spectacular as Cobb vs. Ospreay. They did have the advantage of being able to play off of their previous match, though, and they did that well. Kelly Klein won the belt back, which just makes me wonder why she ever lost it in the first place if all Mayu was going to do is drop the belt to Kelly. And considering the post-match segment, well... let's just get into that right now, shall we?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Very mixed feelings. Angelina Love and Velvet Sky came down to the ring to face off with Kelly. Mandy Leon left the commentary table to back Kelly up... but then blindsided her. The heels beat Kelly up. First Jenny Rose and then Stella Grey tried to make the save but Rose got a Botox Injection from Angelina and Stella go the hairspray in the face from Velvet followed by a DDT from Mandy. They then drew what appears to be the international symbol for anarchy on Kelly's forehead in lipstick while Mandy filmed it with her phone and they all posed and took pictures together.
The execution here was pretty great and this definitely qualifies as a decent surprise, but the Beautiful People are absolutely not what this division needs right now. They're good personalities, yes, but Velvet is terrible in the ring and Angelina hasn't had a good match in a decade. This is ROH. This division needs workers. Maybe I could get behind this if they had paired them up with a good worker, but instead they've been put with freakin' Mandy Leon. If you're looking for a personality and some star-power (which seems to be what this move is about) then I think just bringing Velvet Sky in as a manager would have been a much better idea.
Mandy's involvement in particular has me a little annoyed. Obviously she can fit in with their aesthetic, but as I said above she isn't the necessary level of worker, and really hasn't shown any signs of improving. In fact, she has barely wrestled over the past sixteen months. Her most recent match was on the Jericho Cruise, and the match before that was back in the title tournament last March. She hasn't wrestled yet in 2019 and only wrestled four times in 2018. While that's not good in and of itself, thing that really bugs me is how random this was. It just seems so clear to me that instead of having Kelly drop the belt to Mayu for two months just so she could win it back here, it would have been better to use the "Kelly will give anyone a title shot" angle to set this one up by having Mandy lose a title shot to Kelly, and maybe even get a second one and do better but still lose, so that her heel turn is one of desperation because she can't beat Kelly on her own, rather than just a thing she randomly decided to do.
While I'm on the subject of the women's division, the term "Women of Honor" is fine as a collective noun when you're talking about multiple women in the division and with a definite article in front of it, but the announcers really need to stop using it as a proper noun synonym for the "the ROH women's division." When Ian Riccaboni expressed his disgust with the heels' actions by saying "this is not what we need in Women of Honor!" it had that same painful stiffness as Michael Cole telling us a brawl has "spilled out into the WWE Universe."
A GOOFBALL COMES OUT TO THE RING AND BULLY RAY BEATS HIM UP - Didn't we see this exact same thing with this exact same guy in Baltimore?
BULLY RAY PROMO - He cut the expected promo about Juice Robinson not being able to wrestle so his open challenge is still open. It was answered by...
NEW YORK CITY STREET FIGHT:
Bully Ray vs. Flip Gordon - no rating
So I guess this means Flip reinjuring his knee was just an injury scare. That's good news.
They do a spot or two, then Slias Yong and Shane Taylor run down to the ring to help Bully. They got Flip set up on a table with Silas and Taylor holding him in position and Bully Ray is about to hit him in the gut with a Kendo stick, when LifeBlood's music hits and Mark Haskins and Juice Robinson (who looks perfectly f*cking fine, so you have to wonder why he didn't come out here for his scheduled match against Bully Ray) come out... and they take their f*cking time strutting and cutting a promo on showing off their big collection of weapons. I can only imagine that while this is happening, Bully is just whacking away at poor Flip with the Kendo stick and causing him many internal injuries.
Nope. Apparently they let Flip go for some reason. Juice suggests that we make this a six-man tag so the match became a...
SIX-MAN NEW YORK CITY STREET FIGHT:
Bully Ray, Silas Young, & Shane Taylor vs. Flip Gordon & LifeBlood (Mark Haskins & Juice Robinson) - 4/10
There was some good stuff in here, but that entire section with the Kendo sticks was horrible. It was painfully over-choreographed and came across like an attempt to earn an extra snowflake from Uncle Dave rather than as something that would happen naturally in the course of a match. I've been saying for years that the spot Shibata did where he just sat down and lets the other guy kick him in the back to prove how tough he was was f*cking stupid because there was no reason the other guy wouldn't just kick him in the back of the skull instead of kick him in the back like he wanted. Replace "kick" with "swing a weapon at" and turn "the other guy" from your random opponent of the night into "three guys who hate you" and Flip Gordon is a moron giving his back to these guys and asking them to hit him with Kendo sticks, and they're even bigger morons for not hitting him in the head. Flip eventually pinned Bully Ray, so what was the point of Bully Ray sticking around another four months to continue this feud with Flip Gordon after they already had their I Quit Match at the biggest show of the year where they incorporated all of the previous elements of the feud? If you want to keep Bully Ray on as a promo coach or agent for tag team matches then that's fine, but there is no reason for him to be eating up time on wrestling shows and dragging matches down with his presence.
Also, the commentary for this match was terrible. It was too silly and over the top. Ian's forced musical references and forced set-ups for his usual big calls detracted from the atmosphere... and somehow he was the best announcer in this match. Caprice Coleman and Kevin Kelly each ruined spots with their goofy bullsh*t, and if Colt Cabana can't get through a single sentence without sounding like he's about to break out laughing, he shouldn't be doing commentary at all, never mind for a grudge match with weapons.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Taiji Ishimori(c) vs. Bandido vs. Dragon Lee - 7/10
This was nine minutes of spots. They were spectacular spots, yes, but they were just a bunch of spots. Also, the following happened: Bandido grabs Ishimori... and we cut to the crowd. We cut back to the ring and Bandido has Ishimori up for a move... and we cut back to the same section of the crowd... and of course when come back, we've missed the spot. If I don't read that ROH's director was fired in this week's Observer, I'm going to be very unhappy, because there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXUCSE FOR DOING SOMETHING SO F*CKING STUPID.
Dragon Lee won the title, and Kevin Kelly told us that this means that he will "go into Best of the Super Juniors in the month of May with a big target on his back." If Kevin can state for certain that he will be the champion going into BOSJ and BOSJ usually last into June, does that mean that the title won't be defended again for two months? That sucks. Can we at least get one at Dontaku?
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH FOR BOTH THE ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES AND THE IWGP TAG TEAM TITLES:
Villain Enterprises (Brody King & PCO)(ROH World Tag Team Champions) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny(IWGP Tag Team Champions) (w/Jado) vs. the Briscoes vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Sanada) - 7.5/10
Villain Enterprises got a big entrance here that was completely goofy, and Caprice came off completely goofy with the way he sold it, too. This was another big, spotty, relatively short match. PCO almost died. Again. This guy is really scaring me with these bumps he takes. The match was exciting, but at the same time felt like it could have been a lot more. Why are we only giving these matches ten minutes? Maybe cut some f*cking jobbers out of the Honor Rumble if you want to keep things shorter. Or don't do a random segment with Bully Ray and some loser who we have no idea why he is even here in the first place. Or don't waste time on every show for several months building up to a Bully Ray match that no one wants to see.
Or don't book so many f*cking matches on your show. This match in particular felt like something that just plain shouldn't have happened. Having two title vs. title matches on the same show makes each one feel less special, losing their titles after less than a month and doing nothing of any note with them feels like a big momentum killer for Villain Enterprises, and why the f*ck you ROH want the Guerrillas of Destiny, the beige of New Japan's tag team division, to have their titles?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. Yano comes out and steals the IWGP Tag Team Titles because he's a piece of sh*t. Do you see what you people have done? You keep justifying his cheating, so now he thinks he can break other rules, too. In five years the police are going to search his house and find piles of human skulls in the closet, and all of you are going to have that blood on your hands for encouraging him to go down this criminal path.
But yeah, Yano stole the IWGP Tag Team Titles, so now our new ROH World Tag Team Champions are immediately put in an angle where them being the ROH World Tag Team Champions is completely incidental. Facepalm.
RPW UNDISPUTED BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr.(c) (w/TAKA Michinoku) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - 7.75/10
Zack worked the arm, Tanahashi worked the leg. This felt like the reader's digest version of what these two would do in a New Japan main event. I haven't seen the RevPro show yet, but I think everyone would have been better off if instead of doing this match on this show they had done the match for RevPro's top title on RevPro's show, saving time on this one and giving that one a match that actually matters.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Tetsuya Naito(c) vs. Kota Ibushi - 8.5/10
I don't think I've ever had a match before that I have somehow managed to simultaneously be very excited and also not give a sh*t about, but this one has managed it. They started off doing some good stuff so I cared, but once they went to the outside for the usual "throw the guy into the barricade a bunch of times while the referee doesn't count you out, then toss him into the crowd for the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys(TM).
That silliness out of the way, the match kept building and building and became quite awesome. The series of false finishes at the end were fantastic. Kota won. It's funny how he went so many years without winning won one of the titles NJPW actually cares about, but now that he has signed an NJPW contract, he finally wins one.
LADDER MATCH FOR THE ROH WORLD TITLE:
Jay Lethal(c) vs. Matt Taven vs. Marty Scurll - 8.25/10
An awesome Ladder Match with all of the usual awesome Ladder Match stuff. Scurll's selling of his knee throughout definitely added a differentiating touch that helped this match. I just REALLY don't like the result. Also, a fan got hit by an errant ladder, prompting a "THAT'S A LAWSUIT!" chant.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jay White(c) (w/Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada - 8.5/10
The story of the match was Okada having to deal with Gedo's interference, but it hit the point that Gedo not getting ejected at the end was just plain silly. They did a lot of good building up and teasing of their big stuff, but I thought that finishing sequence went a bit overboard on White reversing things after being hit with a Rainmaker (or similarly big lariat). Throw in the multiple instances of them fighting on the outside forever without being counted out and you have a main event that, while awesome, felt like it could have been more, considering that it got thirty minutes. I also really don't like White dropping the title back to Okada here. It feels like cuts White off way too soon, and less than a year out from Omega's big title win, it feels like we're back at the status quo. I think a much better story would have been to make White the unbeatable monster and finally have Okada dethrone him at Wrestle Kingdom, to build up a real journey for Okada without Gedo at his side.
This was a pretty awesome show from ROH and New Japan, but at the same time I can't help but feel that it could have been more. This has real Tokyo Dome feel to it, but so many of the big undercard matches felt like they didn't quite get enough time. Give everything (other than Rush vs. Dalton, obviously) four to five more minutes, and I think this show would have gone down as an all-time classic. Instead we got a show that, while awesome, also felt a little disappointing. I'd also be remiss if I didn't say that most of the booking decisions from both companies did not leave me feeling very optimistic for the future. But either way, this was a landmark show in wrestling history, and was quite excellent in the ring. I haven't put too much thought into comparing it to anything else yet, but it's probably a Show of the Year Candidate, so you should absolutely go watch it.