COAST 2 COAST vs. ALEX COUGHLIN & KARL FREDERICKS - 4.75/10
ROH WOMEN OF HONOR TITLE MATCH:
Kelly Klein(c) vs. Stacy Shadows - 4.25/10
Stacy Shadows is a large scary woman. We also learned that she is mean because she responded to Kelly Klein's offer of a handshake by shoving Kelly down. The proceeded to have a big monster heel vs. plucky babyface match that was very good for the five minutes it got. Kelly not only won the match, but also won Stacy Shadows' respect, as Stacy offered her a handshake after the match and Kelly accepted.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Great! Kelly left, allowing Stacy Shadows to soak in the crowd reaction a bit. Then those dastardly Allure jerks showed up and attacked Stacy from behind and triple-teamed her and humiliated her by drawing on her face in lipstick. Kelly Klein came charging back out to make the save but Velvet Sky sprayed her with hairspray... which looked more like it went in her mouth than in her eyes, but it still distracted Kelly long enough for Angelina Love to get some shots in (and it getting in her mouth rather than her eyes would also explain why she seemed to have no trouble seeing when security poured out to separate them, so maybe that's what they were going for all along?). A very effective segment.
IAN RICCABONI MAKES AN ANNOUNCEMENT - Due to their constant interference in Matt Taven's matches, ROH has rescinded Vinny Marseglia and T.K. O'Ryan's seconding licenses so they will no longer be allowed to be at ringside for Taven's matches.
CHEESEBURGER vs. CLARK CONNORS vs. DALTON CASTLE - 6.75/10
Dalton Castle was not originally scheduled to be in this match but his addition was set up via an entertaining pre-match segment that not only effective displayed his new heel character but also showed us that bringing up Dalton's sixteen-second loss to Rush at G1 Supercard is a very effective button to push if you want to goad Dalton into something.
Dalton wrestled in his street clothes (because he wasn't prepared to wrestle at all). This was a very good ten-minute match. Dalton showed off his strength and viciousness, and both Cheeseburger and Clark Connors were great babyfaces.
THE KINGDOM vs. BULLET CLUB (Guerrillas of Destiny & Hikuleo) - 4/10
This was a boring match. There just wasn't much going on that was actually exciting in any way. Tama Tonga's babyface selling was good, but every other time we see him in both ROH and NJPW we're told he's the most despicable human being on Earth and he often acts like it, too, so I don't understand why they expected anyone to be into this match. He made a hot tag and Hikuleo started to run wild, but eventually the Briscoes came out for a distraction (and title belt) finish. Then the Briscoes and the Guerrillas of Destiny brawled up the aisle, because it's definitely a good idea to do things that result in the heel team in your main event being at a disadvantage. And speaking of heels being put at a disadvantage, we got the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Didn't like it. Mark Haskins came out and told us all that if PCO had beaten Taven at the previous show, his match with PCO would have been a world title match, but Taven and his friends' cheating ways have injured PCO so Haskins doesn't even have a match tonight... so he wants Taven to put the title on the line against him. This all makes sense, although I really don't understand why Haskins was in line for a title shot at all, considering that he is 2-4 in singles matches in ROH since his last title shot (and one of those wins was against Beer City Bruiser) while two of the guys he has lost to, Rush and Bandido, have yet to receive title shots even though both guys' entire storylines were/are "this guy is on a roll right now." But if you accept that title shots or #1 contendership matches are something ROH management gives out on a semi-random basis rather than the results of the matches actually mattering (and the #1 contendership match tonight certainly backs up that theory) then it at least makes sense that Haskins should still be owed a title shot.
Taven, of course, refuses, so Haskins taunts him by asking if "Mike and Maria took your balls with them when they left." While I can't argue that this line was kayfabe effective, as it succeeded in goading Taven into accepting the match (and cutting a good promo in the process), out of kayfabe I can't help but note how odd it is. Mike and Maria have been gone for well over three years now, and it's not like Matt Taven was a f*cking symbol of courage before then, either.
Anyway, Taven accepts the match, so now we've got a big world title match on tonight's card... where the heel champion is at a disadvantage because he already wrestled tonight, and is doing so against a member of the babyface group whose gimmick is encouraging fair play.
RHETT TITUS PROMO - Meh. He's going a bodybuilder gimmick now. I've finally hit on the reasons this has been bothering me, and here they are. First of all, the abruptness of the change to this gimmick when it happened makes Rhett feel completely one-dimensional; like he's just a robot and the booker took out his old program chip and replaced with the bodybuilder program chip. I think if they had incorporated this into a previous gimmick (and it fits in perfectly with "addicted to love" Rhett Titus) then it would feel like a new dimension of a previously established character rather than a different but similarly one-dimensional gimmick (and this is a lot more one dimensional than "addicted to love" Rhett Titus ever did.
Secondly, Rhett has wrestled so in frequently but been on commentary to get his gimmick over so many times that he doesn't feel like a wrestler anymore so much as a goofy gimmick they want to get on the show so they just find a spot for him. If he were wrestling more regularly and actually involved in storylines then I wouldn't find the character anywhere near as grating.
FLIP GORDON vs. RHETT TITUS - 2/10
This was very short. They did one spot where Rhett got to incorporate his gimmick, then he worked over Flip's chest briefly until Flip made a quick comeback and tapped him out with an STF. I understand why they made this match so short (Flip wasn't supposed to be on this show but had visa problems getting into Japan, so they didn't want to extend the show too much), but after seeing what these two did I actually do wish they had given this some time. So what if the show goes long. This is ROH. It's not bad to push against the four hour mark every once in a while. Give the matches some time to breathe!
THE BOUNCERS vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Sanada & EVIL) - DUD!
The Bouncers offer LIJ beer before the match, so LIJ drink some... and then spit it in their faces and attack them while they are blinded. What a bunch of dicks! EVIL also did his stupid chairshot to spin the other chair on the opponent's neck that would hurt a lot less than if he had just hit the opponent with the chair. Most of the match was either LIJ cheating or trying to pick one of the big guys up together. This was terrible.
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH FOR AN ROH WORLD TITLE SHOT AT STATE OF THE ART 2019 - KENT:
P.J. Black vs. Rush vs. Eli Isom vs. Tracy Williams - 7.75/10
Rush is undefeated, while the other three really haven't done anything to deserve to be in a #1 contendership match, so I'm not sure why there is a title shot on the line here instead of Rush just being awarded one and this merely being a random match on the card. It very much devalues the importance of winning matches if Rush can go undefeated for months and wind up in a #1 contendership match against three people who have barely picked up any singles wins.
The match went just over ten and a half minutes, but they packed a hell of a lot of action and drama into that time. Like the Baltimore match a few weeks ago, the timing in this four-way was excellent, with it almost never looking like people were "getting into position for their spots" but rather like a completely natural series of events occurring. I find something like this to be a lot more impressive than coming up with a "cool" but clearly staged set of big spots you can do.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Matt Taven(c) vs. Mark Haskins - 8.5/10
Taven immediately tried to hit Haskins with the title, just like he did with Hikuleo earlier. I like that they're trying to make the belt shot a big thing for him. It's such a perfect weapon for a heel champion to use as a weapon for finishes. There are so many spots you can do with it that are just dripping with symbolism. These guys were having an awesome match with good limb-work (though Taven mostly stopped selling his knee as the match went on) and exciting nearfalls and Haskins got the sharpshooter again and was leaning all the way back and there was no way Taven was getting out... and then f*cking Bully Ray came out and shouted "HOW'S YOUR WIFE!" and dumbf*ck Mark Haskins let go of his submission hold on the world champion to run over towards Bully Ray. This would have been bad enough on its own, but then he didn't actually do anything to Bully. If he had dived onto him or slid out of the ring and started throwing haymakers at him at least it would sell the anger at Bully's statement as being so great that he felt honor-bound to release the hold on the world champion to go after Bully, but instead he just stopped at the ropes to yell at Bully. Taven then hit him in the nuts and got the pin. This was a complete and total sports entertainment bullsh*t finish and is the sort of thing ROH should absolutely avoid doing at all costs.
Also, earlier on the show they made a big deal about how Marseglia & O'Ryan are now not allowed at ringside for Taven's matches because they've interfered so often. Why hasn't a similar ruling been issued for Bully Ray? He interferes in matches all the time! And if management isn't going to do it then you'd think that Haskins' s LifeBlood stablemate Tracy Williams would have come out to try to stop Bully from approaching the ring, or Bully's mortal enemy Flip Gordon, or one of the honor-loving babyfaces in the main event like Jay Lethal or Jeff Cobb, right? Nope. Because the angle didn't call for it. And if your answer to the question of why a solution to the protagonists problem wasn't used is "because that's not how we wanted the story to go" then you need to go back and write your story better. This was an awesome world title match ruined by a terrible finish.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Odd. Matt Taven good and likely heartfelt promo, but it would have worked better if he didn't need help to win this match tonight. There is nothing wrong with a heel champion who can win cleanly. All it does is make the championship feel more legitimate by making the champion look more legitimate. Taven started to run down people he had previously beaten, including a clever explanation for why the nameplate on the title belt still says Jay Lethal (to remind Lethal that Taven took the title from him). Once PCO was mentioned, his music played and out came PCO, even though he was supposedly too injured to wrestle tonight. PCO destroyed Taven and posed with the title.
This whole thing was very weird. On the one hand I understand what they're going for, but on the other hand I can't piece together how PCO "wasn't cleared to compete" by ROH management but was still able to completely obliterate Taven like that and look just like normal after the war from two days ago. Maybe if he hadn't been to the building at all because ROH told him to stay home or something? Some reason that ROH would not have been aware of the degree to which his amazing regenerative powers had restored him.
This also obviously sets PCO up for another title shot, and while it feels very "reset button-y" to do that the night after his title match, but I do like some longer title chases with stories that move forward, and between last night's title match and tonight's we're clearly setting up an "outside interference" theme, so I guess we're headed for some cage matches of something. Speaking of world title contenders...
KENNY KING PROMO - Bad. This was basically him doing the same "I've been blinded by that horrible Great Muta after becoming the only person to win an Honor Rumble from #1, but now that I have been blinded, my other senses are operating at super-hero levels" comedy bullsh*t he's been doing on commentary, but now doing it as a segment for the live crowd. The problem (aside from the inherent stupidity of it, I mean), is that while this might be the first time they are doing it as a segment for the live crowd to be able to hear, the rest of us (as well as anyone in the crowd tonight who has been watching the shows on HonorClub, which they're supposed to want us to be doing) is now hearing Kenny do this same shtick for about the fourth time, but this time there isn't even a match to focus on instead. It's just an obnoxious waste of time, and every time he does this it just makes it even stupider that no one in the company is coming out and calling him on his obvious bullsh*t. And now Kenny is coming over to the commentary table to do the same f*cking shtick again.
I find this all concerning for several reasons. First and foremost, Kenny King has earned a shot at the ROH World Title. He's clearly a heel and so is Matt Taven, and based on ROH's booking over the past few years, I'm highly skeptical that we'll get a heel vs. heel title match... so what are they going to do with Kenny in the meantime? Based on Kenny's over various go-nowhere, same sh*t over and over again gimmicks during this run in ROH, I'm very worried that he is going to keep doing this same stupid thing over and over and over again for months until Taven loses the title.
THE BRISCOES, SILAS YOUNG, SHANE TAYLOR, & BULLY RAY vs. JAY LETHAL, HIROOKI GOTO, JEFF COBB, SATOSHI KOJIMA, & YUJI NAGATA - 5.5/10
Ian Riccaboni said that the "wars" between the Dudleys and Ten-Koji were "well documented" but I can't find a single instance of them ever facing off. The closest I could find were one Dudleys vs. Kojima & Honma match and one Dudleys vs. Kojima & Hayashi match, both from All Japan in 2005. Am I missing something, or is Ian just making sh*t up?
They took over ten minutes to get out of first gear. You really don't have to have everyone get in with everyone else and trade wristlocks. You only absolutely need to have a certain pairing in there in the beginning to establish a storyline for the match.
The heels got the heat on Lethal. That lasted a few minutes before the babyfaces got control again without even much of a hot tag. We got a few minutes of heat on Cobb followed by a hot tag that was actually set up to be hot. They did some stuff with everyone running in. Bully eventually grabbed his chain but Haskins ran out to stop him from using it. The babyfaces then hit Bully with a bunch of moves and Kojima pinned him.
This... felt like a match that Bully Ray put together. I'm not saying he hogged the spotlight or even made himself look overly strong or anything like that. What I'm saying is that this felt like a match where Bully Ray dictated the pace to everyone, because this match was SLOW AS F*CK, and the vast majority of the heat (and a lot of the heels' other offense, really, too) was all punch-kick stuff or a head-vise or other such stuff that was so painfully plodding and redundant. This match went twenty-three and a half minutes and MAYBE got out of second gear in the two or three minutes. This is not what people expect from a f*cking ten-man tag at all in 2019, never mind in the main event and with talent like Lethal, Cobb, Silas, Goto, and the Briscoes. Hell, even Nagata and Kojima usually wrestle at a faster pace than this, and even in singles matches. This pacing can work for a singles match, but not for a ten-man tag.
This was all exacerbated by the fact that... well... to be blunt, there is no reason for this match to be happening other than to fill up time. Yes, it set up a situation for Haskins to get some revenge on Bully Ray, but that didn't need to happen on tonight's show. That feud wasn't even on chapter one sixty minutes ago. It doesn't need have chapter two told already.
But do you know what story does need to move forward?
In my review of Road to G1 Supercard: Night 4 I wrote about how LifeBlood has been wasted because the group is really nothing more than some random wrestlers with an ill-defined mission statement. They were introduced in January as a group that wants to "bring honor back to Ring of Honor." Okay... well now the booker needs to use that to tell a story. Instead, they've just been having random matches.
Well LifeBlood were introduced in part to be a counter-point to the alliance of these give heels: Bully Ray, Shane Taylor, Silas Young, and the Briscoes. During their big debut together Ian Riccaboni called them "the plague that has infected Ring of Honor" or something like that. Well they've been together for five months now, and STILL the only thing Ian has been given to say about them is that they are "the plague that has infected Ring of Honor."
The article announcing this match on the ROH website included the following paragraph:
"Is there an underlying agenda that motivates Bully Ray, Young, Taylor, and The Briscoes? Is there more than them teaming together than wanting the winner's share of the Main Event money? Time will tell – and you should join us in Grand Rapids or watch War of the Worlds LIVE on HonorClub to find out!"
Well I just joined you on HonorClub, and the answer appears to be "no. They're just together because they're meanies." This is a group that is together for no reason and they fight the babyfaces in matches with no discernable consequences and it has been MOHTHS OF THIS SH*T AND NOTHING HAS HAPPENED! I have hit the point where any time I see Bully Ray on a show or any combination of these guys together on than the Briscoes off doing their own thing, it turns me off not only to them and to the show, but also to whichever babyfaces they're across the ring from because I know nothing that happens in the match will be relevant. Any faction doing that shouldn't exist at all, never mind be in the main event.
This was a bad show from Ring of Honor, even with the good segments early on and great matches near the top. The moment Bully Ray shows up in the Haskins match, just turn your computer off. These shows are dragged down by this inexorable feeling of pointlessness. This tour feels like it could have been condensed into two shows (three at most) instead of four and with half the number of New Japan guys (is anyone other than the Guerrillas of Destiny actually doing anything more than wrestling random matches with no effect on anyone's storyline, even if it's their opponents'?), but it has been stretched out into four shows, with resulting sports entertainment f*ck-finish booking being used to pad the interim instead of letting people cut promos of having interference attempts foiled or anything else that would make the promotion feel less like WWE and more ROH.