FLIP GORDON vs. RUSH - 6.75/10
This was a very good personality match for the time it got. Rush felt like he was doing the Ishii "I'm so tough" thing but without all of the no-selling. The only spot I didn't like in this match was when Rush threw the garbage can at Flip right in front of the referee and wasn't disqualified. That was clearly an illegal weapon shot. I'll remember Ian's "this is a marquee match-up and we want a clear winner, not a DQ" whenever Ian gets upset about a heel cheating throughout the rest of the night.
RUSH PROMO - Great. At this point the only question is why this undefeated star hasn't been given title shot already.
NWA SEGMENT - Nick Aldis come out to introduce Colt Cabana's replacement for tonight as well as the newest NWA signee... and out comes James Storm?
Storm is upset about not getting asked to be the Colt's replacement. He rants and raves about supposedly having both Drake and Cabana beaten, then demands to know who the mystery partner is. Dude... if you wanted to find out, why did you interrupt him when he was about to bring the mystery partner out? Hell... didn't you notice anyone standing there at Gorilla position when you walked through it to come out?
Anyway, the partner is Eli Drake. Look... I like Eli Drake a lot, but he fits into this niche that the NWA is developing in ROH where they are guys who are great talkers but not particularly great wrestlers. They can have the odd great match here and there, but bringing so many of these guys in feels like it is yet another step in the on-going lowering of the in-ring quality of the roster, and that is a very bad look for any company in this day and age.
Eli Drake came out and cut a good promo about how great the NWA and how it is the company he wanted to go to and how important the NWA World Heavyweight Title is... and he is saying all of this into his ROH-logo microphone with an ROH-graphic video screen behind him on this ROH PPV. What does ROH get out of any of this?
DALTON CASTLE vs. DRAGON LEE - 7/10
I love how the commentators never had a problem Dalton not giving his Boys names and would even joke about it while Dalton was a babyface, but now that he has turned heel this has all of a sudden become a sign of "how poorly Dalton treated them." If you want to be angry about something, be angry about Dalton turning on his loyal servants and assaulting them. Don't dial it up to eleven and complain about things you were fine with when he was a babyface. It only makes the show feel hokier and the announcers feel like people getting paid to tell us what we're supposed to get upset about and less like the consistently moral viewpoint characters that the babyface announcers are supposed to be.
Are there no count-outs in this match? At least one wrestler has been on the outside for 95% of it and I don't think the referee has counted once. Oh. Here they are. Apparently there only count-outs when the plot wants there to be. Also, Cabana is entirely correct that Dragon Lee arguing with the referee after a ONE-COUNT was utterly moronic.
Now that the negatives are out of the way, let's get to the positives. The callback to Castle vs. Rush at the beginning was very clever, the intensity was great, and they seemed to put some effort into having match that was a much meaner version of what you would typically get from either of these guys. I also loved the finish, which saw Dalton hit Bang-a-rang, but instead of going for the pin he pulled Dragon lee into the corner and hit him with Rush's finisher to get the pin.
KELLY KLEIN & JENNY ROSE vs. THE ALLURE (Mandy Leon & Angelina Love) (w/Velvet Sky) - 5.75/10
The story of the match was the heels using the numbers game to get the win. Allure definitely held up their end of things in the ring, and the match was perfectly fine for its place both on the card and in the feud, though I still maintain that its place in the feud is not worth the PPV spot.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. Maria Manic's video played, then she magicked the lights off and teleported into the ring. Can we please knock it off with the stupid, pointless apparating? It's dumb, clichéd, and seems to be a magical power that these people only have when their appearance is supposed to be a storyline surprise. If you can make the lights go out and teleport, why not do it when you're about to get pinned?
Anyway, Maria Manic appeared in the ring, stared at The Allure and did... well... nothing. The heels then slinked out of the ring while security tried to get Maria to leave and she beat them up.
This is exactly the sort of segment that drives me nuts because it feels so phony. This felt like a segment that was booked by the booker so that Maria Manic could make a surprise debut live on PPV rather than something that happened organically as a result of the characters' understandable motivations.
BEST OF 3 SERIES MATCH #3:
Kenny King vs. Jay Lethal - 6.75/10
They did an excellent job of weaving in several different stories (Lethal's injured arm, Kenny working over Lethal's back, Lethal's temper, Kenny trying to show Lethal up by doing his moves) and had a great match, although the refereeing issues are really starting to bug me, and even more so in this match because the logical solution would have been to just book this as a relaxed rules match, which would have fit in perfectly with the feud, too.
What was not great was the announcing. Caprice Coleman has gone full heel, and now often comes off like a cartoon. Cabana is no good and Ian's forced musical references have started to drive me nuts.
Also, can we please have the announcers stop talking about how guys "have" certain moves? While I thought Ian did a great job of explaining to us that the big dropkick in the corner isn't as effective when Dragon Lee does it because Dragon Lee is smaller and likely has less force behind him than Rush does, him trying to tell us that Kenny King is somehow better at dropping a dude on his back than Jay Lethal is strained credulity, and I was outright angry when Colt said that Kenny King "doesn't have a top-rope move." Just because Kenny King doesn't hit a move from the top rope in every match doesn't mean he doesn't know how to do them. The man is a trained professional wrestler. Surely at some point during his training he was taught how to perform a diving leg drop or a diving splash or whatever.
Also on the announcing front, their attempts to defend Amy Rose were downright silly. I don't understand how anyone could possibly see this as anything but an Amy Rose heel turn, but here is Ian Riccaboni telling me that Amy "doesn't know what she's done." Are you kidding me? Her f*cking job is to sit at ringside and watch wrestling matches. If she figured out by now that when someone calls for a foreign object it's because that person is trying to cheat then she's a f*cking moron!
And just to close this section off, Ian should not be calling Kenny King's victory with nothing on the line against Jay Lethal here "the biggest victory of his career!" Kenny King is a multi-time TV champion and a former tag team champion, and has won multiple matches to earn himself shots at those titles and the ROH World Title. If titles mean anything, then all of those are much bigger wins than this one.
PURE RULES MATCH:
Johnathan Gresham vs. Silas Young - 6/10
These are the old pure rules, with the exception of one important (and, in my opinion very bad) change: Instead of being penalized a rope-break (and then DQed if he has no rope breaks left), any subsequent closed-fist punches to the face after a wrestler is warned now result in a DQ. This takes away the story of the heel antagonizing the babyface into wasting his rope breaks, which has a key element to many Pure Title matches.
That being said, I did greatly appreciate that Ian at least acknowledged that this was a change from what the Pure Rules have been in the past. Without an acknowledgment like this it can feel like the company either doesn't know its own history or that the company is assuming that the fans are ignorant and feel like they can get away with making a change by just pretending that it was always this way, which just plain isn't the right way to treat your fans. Ian acknowledging that a change has taken place turns that into a simple "we know we did things differently in the past but we've decided to change it up a bit" which is a perfectly fair thing for a promotion to do.
Colt's commentary in this match hit that level of an announcer who is constantly making the wrestlers look bad by saying "he should have hooked the leg" on every pinfall attempt where someone doesn't hook the leg.
I can't say that this was a bad match, but there was a lot about it that I disliked. I thought the spots where they forced each other to use rope breaks by locking on a submission and pushing the other guy into the ropes made a mockery of the rules, and I thought the finish was horrendous. I don't care if turnabout is fair play. I care about moral play, and this finish was not Jonathan Gresham overcoming Silas Young but rather Jonathan Gresham stooping to Silas' level by cheating.
Gresham sold his back well and there were one or two good Pure Rules spots, but overall, this now makes two summers in a row where someone has brought back the Pure Rules and I have found myself rather disappointed by the execution.
THE BRISCOES vs. NICK ALDIS & ELI DRAKE - 6.5/10
James Storm replaced Caprice Coleman on commentary for this match. Any time he and Colt interacted, Storm came across like the babyface and Colt like the heel, which is the opposite of the way it's supposed to be.
The match was very good until the disappointing count-out finish. A large part of what made this finish so annoying was that the bell just rang out of nowhere without us hearing any counting, and I don't think we ever got an official announcement either. Now add that to the fact that count-out rules, which have been bent horribly all night, were suddenly being fully enforced here and it was rather annoying.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT #1 - Didn't like it. Jay Briscoe and Eli Drake were the ones who were I assume counted out. They wound up brawling over by the commentary booth where Drake tried to spit water at Jay but it got on James Storm, so then Storm jumped in and he and Drake brawled to the back. The Briscoes then beat Aldis up and went to put him through a table. Aldis' valet/enforcer Kamlie made her return, trying to save Aldis, which was a little odd as the last time we saw her was at the Crockett Cup where she walked out on him after he rebuffed her efforts to interfere on his behalf. She tackled a Briscoe from behind but security quickly broke it up. The referees took Kamile to the back, leaving the Briscoes alone with security, so the Briscoes quickly just beat up all of the security guards. Ian told us that the Briscoes were risking fines and suspensions from the NWA for this, but I don't really understand how the NWA can fine the Briscoes for beating up ROH security on an ROH show. The Briscoes then put Aldis through a table.
The big issue here, though, was Colt Cabana on commentary. He's sitting there saying "I really want to do something about this" and Ian is saying "no, Colt! Don't! You're not medically cleared!" Saying this sort of thing is Ian's role and he played it perfectly, but Cabana's role in all of this is not to sit on his f*cking ass and not try to make the save just because he's hurt. It's not like he has a broken arm or is on crutches or anything. Not wrestling when you're not medically cleared is one thing, and especially in a situation like this where it is the promotion making the decision (upon consultation with Colt's doctor) to not allow Colt to wrestle. But right now saving Aldis isn't just some wrestling match. It's a f*cking moral imperative, and yet here is Cabana sitting on his ass and not doing anything about it, just like all of those times when Bully Ray as beating someone up and Colt sat on his ass and didn't do anything about instead constantly calling on someone else to come out and stop the beating.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT #2 - The Briscoes left, at which point Nick Aldis' best friend Marty Scurll came out. If you are wondering why Marty didn't run out to save his best friend before, Ian said it was because Marty was preparing for his own match. I can accept that. Cabana, on the other hand, pushed the idea that Marty was suspiciously late. I don't know if I'm supposed to agree with Colt or if Colt was just playing heel announcer for no reason.
ROH TV TITLE MATCH:
Shane Taylor(c) vs. Bandido - 7.5/10
Easily match of the night so far. They did a great job telling a story with the size differential between the two men and had some extremely exciting false finishes.
ROH WORLD SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Villain Enterprises(c) vs. P.J. Black & LifeBlood (Mark Haskins & Tracy Williams) - 8/10
Villain Enterprises now have custom six-man tag title belts with their logo as the belt plate. This is a very WWE thing to do. I also thought them coming out dressed as the Road Warriors made them look like they weren't stars in their own right.
So you guys know how PCO likes to say that he "isn't human?" Well I had a thought about that. PCO spelled backwards is OCP. I think PCO might be a prototype RoboCop.
This was an excellent action match, and what's more I was pleasantly surprised by the clean finish. The bookers made the correct choice to save the run-ins for the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good... until the end. Villain Enterprises headed to the back and P.J. Black slinked off after having been put down by the big finishing sequence. Then the Soldiers of Savagery attacked LifeBlood and beat them up. Bandido ran out to make the save for his stablemates and was able to get both Soldiers of Savagery out of the ring, but then got attacked by Bully Ray. Bully got a chair form one of the other heels and was going to hit Bandido with it when Flip Gordon ran out with a Kendo stick to chase him off. LifeBlood again offered Flip a spot in their group, and this time he accepted.
This all makes perfect sense. Finlay's injury (and, out of kayfabe, Juice's uncertain status) have left LifeBlood shorthanded. Flip Gordon is already an enemy of Bully Ray, with whom LifeBlood is currently feuding, and is the sort of young babyface that you are expecting to carry the company in the future and thus want to stick in a featured spot with the group that is supposed to represent everything that is great about ROH. A perfect fit.
Then the lights went out and Marty Scurll appeared on the tron in what was clearly a pre-taped video package because the camera panned over to the secret fourth member of Villain Enterprises... Flip Gordon. This isn't a major plot-hole because it's possible that Marty and Flip had planned for Flip to come out and accept LifeBlood's offer to join them (originally made at War of the Worlds Tour 2019: Buffalo) and then attack them no matter what happened, but the whole idea of doing this now ("this" consisted of Flip attacking LifeBlood and Villain Enterprises coming out and beating them down) is a little ridiculous. I mean... Villain Enterprises have turned heel just to start a feud with guys who they had no previous quarrel with and who they just beat cleanly to retain their titles two minutes ago. This would have worked A LOT better if Gabriel and Bandido had switched spots and LifeBlood had just won the titles here (VE would have a reason to attack them, and this segment would have set up not just WE but also Bully & the Sons of Savagery as challengers).
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Matt Taven(c) vs. Jeff Cobb - 6.75/10
The announcers informed us that the rest of the Kingdom had been banned from the ringside. Of course, the last time that happened in a title match Marseglia still interfered and neither he nor Taven received any sort of punishment for it.
They did what they could with the time they were given, which was a shade below ten minutes. For a f*cking PPV main event ROH World Title match. That being said, the bump Cobb took for the finish looked absolutely sickening and definitely felt like something that should have finished a match.
This was a solid to good show from ROH and was very easy to sit through for a show that went three and a half hours, but it just wasn't a PPV-quality show. It almost felt like a 2016 ROH PPV where the time was managed extremely poorly. The longest match on the card was the Pure Rules match, which easily could have had a minute shaved off of it, and between that, cutting the women's match and post-match segment, and shaving a minute or two off of the Briscoes vs. NWA match, there was easily enough time to let Cobb and Taven have a real ROH World Title main event, give King and Lethal more time for their grudge match, and let your stars of the future in Taylor and Bandido go out and have a TV Title match that would actually make people excited about a future where Shane Taylor plays a significant role. Hopefully the next PPV will be better.