BULLY RAY PROMO - Bad. He's out to do his dumb cheap-heat shtick, yelling at Todd Sinclair and Bobby Cruise and threatening to beat up fans. It's 2019! We all know you're not going to hit anyone and no one is going to jump the guardrail. You're just wasting everyone's time!
Ian Riccaboni keeps telling us that Bully Ray is a "cancer" in ROH, which just makes me wonder why he hasn't been kayfabe fired yet. He's abrasive, obnoxious, he threatens the referees and ringside crew, 99% of the wrestlers hate his guts, he has threatened to violate commission rules to get a show stopped if he doesn't get way... so what does he bring to the company? And don't tell me "star power" because he's not portrayed like a star. The commentary has (rightfully) never made him out to be a great wrestler or title contender or anything like that, so why doesn't the company just fire him?
Bully makes an open challenge to anyone in ROH. Tracy Williams came out and cut a great promo on Bully, then challenged him to a hardcore match. Bully kicked Tracy in the nuts, then accepted the challenge, so we started a...
Bully Ray vs. Tracy Williams - 5.5/10
These guys went about eight minutes. It was decent enough for what it was and had a roll-up finish that actually worked well despite it being a hardcore match because Bully sold his humiliation at missing a splash and then being beaten by a wrestling move... but it very much felt like the weapons were merely a shortcut so that Bully didn't have to do much (he dominated most of the match, and a lot of the offense Tracy got didn't require Bully to do much other than stand there and sell pain). It was fine for what it was, but it wasn't particularly exciting.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Frustrating. Bully predictably attacks Williams after the match. He then shoves Todd Sinclair, which absolutely has to result in a suspension. Mark Haskins ran in to make the save for Williams, but Bully beat him up as well and put him through a table. That last part is what bothered me. I can see how the big picture here could easily come together: Bully is suspended for attacking a referee, Haskins injured back costs him Defy or Deny so he can no longer have a title shot, making this now twice Bully has taken a world title away from him (and doing a table bump here means we don't need to have Bully interfere in the main event to cost Haskins the match), so Haskins keeps demanding that the office unsuspend Bully so he can get his hands on him, leading to a PPV match. I just really didn't like how easily Bully dispatched Haskins. It felt like Bully beat up two young stars on his own. It would have been better to have Haskins chance Bully off and then Bully come back and attack him from behind, or to have Bully jump Haskins backstage later on in the show.
(And I'm also a little skeptical that Bully Ray isn't going to interfere in the main event anyway to cost Haskins the match, rendering whatever heat he got here to be redundant, so all that this segment will have accomplished is making Haskins look bad).
DANIKA DELLA ROUGE vs. MAZZERATI - 2.5/10
This was short, but they had a good babyface/heel dynamic. Mazzerati got the win.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - The Allure ran in and attacked both women, then drew their symbol on Danika's face in lipstick.
An outraged Ian Riccaboni demanded to know why The Allure are here and doing things like this and "why are they not wrestling?!" And I think that's a damn good question. This is their ninth show, they have been portrayed as being under ROH contract the entire time, and yet they haven't wrestled once. If you're not going to have them wrestle, why did you sign them and why are you flying them around the country? I mean that question from a kayfabe point of view, which is the way these things need to be looked at. But there is no kayfabe answer, so my mind wanders to other connected topics, and I can't help but notice that the bookers' girlfriends don't have to take bumps.
(For those wondering about the... incident..., it is unfortunately blocked by Ian Riccaboni's body and you can't hear anything because Ian and Colt are doing their segment wrap-up, but you can hear the crowd reacting to something as Mandy passes by the blind-spot created by Ian, and you can see Velvet yelling and pointing at a fan, as well as Mandy coming back and seemingly having another interaction with the fan.)
JOSH WOODS vs. MARK BRISCOE - 6.75/10
They went about twelve minutes. Woods had a good showing for himself. His stuff looked very crisp, and that German Suplex off the apron was crazy. Mark won via cheating, which protects Woods while still avoiding giving him a bigger win that you're willing to give him right now, which is fine... but I'd like to see them come back to this at some point so that it feels like the first chapter in a story rather than just a finish they did because they didn't want to beat either guy. If you don't want to beat either guy and aren't planning on following up on a dirty finish then just don't book them against each other in a singles match.
Ian made a point about the Briscoes and their cheating weapon use over the past nine months or so, which made me wonder why I'm really supposed to be sorry for them that the Guerrillas of Destiny used a chair on them. Having them as a babyfaces in that feud but heels everywhere else really doesn't work for me.
JEFF COBB vs. P.J. BLACK - 6.75/10
They worked very hard and had some big spots and everything built well, but this is a perfect example of a match that I wish ROH would give an extra five to ten minutes to so that instead of a very good twelve minute match they are given time to have that awesome twenty-minute match that helps make the entire show feel like a great show rather than a series of very good but ultimately forgettable matches serving as a mostly pointless undercard before one big main event that the entire worth of the show hinges on. Cobb won clean, and Black showed him respect after the match, furthering the idea that he is sincere about turning over a new leaf.
GAUNTLET MATCH FOR A SHOT AT THE ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Voros Twins vs. Silas Young & Shane Taylor vs. Dalton Castle & Rush vs. Coast 2 Coast vs. the Bouncers vs. the Kingdom (T.K. O'Ryan & Vinny Marseglia)- 7/10
These Voros Twins are complete and total goofs. If I never see them in ROH again, I will have seen them in ROH too many times. At one point when Silas had the Voros Twins in a double abdominal stretch, Shane Taylor put a cigarette in Silas' mouth and lit it. This seems like something the referee should have put a stop to.
Dalton and Rush predictably did not get along. They managed to do a very good job of finding ways to hit double team moves where it still felt like they weren't really working together. Eventually Dalton tripped Rush up while he was going for the Bull's Horns because I guess Dalton doesn't care about the tag titles. Dalton then left, with Rush chasing after him. They brawled on the stage, and while Ian RIccaboni is frantically screaming at us about this big angle happening by the commentary position where Dalton is choking Rush out with part of the lighting rig, the camera is in the ring, showing us the referee counting them out. Stop this amateur hour bullsh*t and get the camera in the right f*cking place!
The Bouncers beat poor Coast 2 Coast, who are so good but are quickly becoming yet another act that Delirious never allows to evolve or go anywhere (Cedric, ACH, Donovan Dijak, Jay White, Lio Rush, veteran Matt Sydal, etc.). Then the Kingdom entered, with T.K. coming out on the stage for a distraction while Marseglia came out of the crowd and attacked the Bouncers from behind. The Bouncers overcame them and got the win.
This was a gauntlet match between a bunch of teams we have been given no real reason to care about, but it was paced very well and managed to hold my interest for the entire 34:20 that it went, without ever dragging, and in my mind that deserves a 7/10.
JAY LETHAL vs. JAY BRISCOE - 7.75/10
Lethal outwrestled Briscoe early on so he got frustrated and kept grabbing chairs. Lethal gave him what was essentially a pep talk to try to turn him babyface, telling him to be the old Jay Briscoe, who was on top of the company when ROH was the leader of the "real wrestling revolution." That was kind of an odd line, and when combined with the comment that "in fact, this entire company needs to get back on track" has me hopeful that at least somebody in the office realizes that things as they are doing them right now are not working and need to change.
Whether or not the pep talk got Briscoe to change his overall outlook we didn't know at this point, but at the very least, Lethal succeeded in getting him to "put the chair down and man up."
From there they had a GREAT intense match, with both guys working the head and neck. While Briscoe's neckbreaker counter to the Lethal Injection did not go as planned, not everything does in real life, and what appears to have actually happened- Briscoe's shoulder caught Lethal in the back of the neck from a sideways angle, before Brsicoes got his hands around Lethal's chin- looked painful enough to match Lethal's selling, so it didn't hurt the match for me at all. Briscoe got cut right by the eye early on and bled quite a bit. It looked like one of the vampires from True Blood would cry.
Eventually Kenny King, who had joined the commentators for this match, left the commentary position to distract Lethal. After having at least arguable success (he bought Briscoe enough time to recover to stop Hail to the King, Lethal was still able to counter that counter with one of his own, leading to more counters, with Briscoe eventually getting edge in the end), King slid the chair into the ring and encouraged Briscoe to hit Lethal with it. After much weighing of the issue, Briscoe responded by emphatically throwing the chair at King to turn babyface, which got a huge pop.
And then Lethal took advantage of Briscoe's distraction to hit Lethal Injection to get the win. After an excellent rendition of a guy smiling and pretending that some sort of deeper goal for his grand plan was achieved in order to not let everyone know that his plan was exactly the basic plan we thought it was and just cheered to see getting foiled, leaving the two Jays alone in the ring. After some tense moments, they exchanged a handshake. I understand that this was done for the sake of the Briscoe face turn, but it didn't feel compatible with the finish. The key point of this match was Lethal convincing Briscoe to be a babyface. You can't then have Lethal win a heelish manner- knowingly take advantage of your opponent being distracted by a third party that he wouldn't hit you with a chair- makes Lethal feel like a hypocrite. I was expecting Briscoe to attack him after the match, or at least not shake his hand. And if you want to say that this was an "honor among thieves" type of thing, that would require this to be a Jay Lethal heel turn, which it was clearly not intended to be.
MATT TAVEN VIDEO PROMO - Bad. First of all, we've got the camera cuts and repeated words. Doing this sort of crap does make your presentation more artsy unless there is a discernable artistic purpose to the effects. For example, a Dutch Angle (tilted camera) is often used in visions or dreams or a look inside the mind of an unbalanced person because the tilting of the camera subtly gives the audience a feeling that something here is off; that something is not right. This promo had none of that. It was just cuts and repetitions and a screen effect where it looked like we were watching the promo on a very old TV with a purplish tint just for the sake of doing these things.
Then we've got Taven's little conspiracy board. The kind with the pictures and notes and they're all connected by strings? But Taven's got notes in here making fun of Flip Gordon's nipples and he's got a picture of JFK, because the thing this big promo about the world title needs is comedy.
And, of course, this is all happening because of Taven's stupid "conspiracy" crap. I can't even call it a gimmick because it's not like it plays a big role in his character. It's just a thing he says every time the booker decides he should say it. I've detailed my problems with it many times in past, so for now I'll just say that all of this combines to make Taven look like a delusional, over the top cartoon goof, and not someone who should be the ROH World Champion.
DEFY OR DENY MATCH:
ROH World Champion Matt Taven vs. Flip Gordon vs. PCO vs. Mark Haskins - 7/10
We were originally told that Haskins couldn't compete tonight due to being injured in the earlier segment, but he came out to wrestle anyway with a taped-up elbow. We were told that he wasn't medically cleared to compete but "signed a medical waiver" for this match, which just makes you wonder why the babyfaces don't do that every other time?
The booking behind this match is problematic. For those who are unaware, Defy or Deny is a four-way elimination match in which if the champion wins, the person he pinned last cannot received another title shot until the champion loses the title, but if one of the challengers wins, that challenger earns a title shot.
This could be fine, but in this case it really doesn't make sense, as Taven needed outside help to beat each of these three challengers. If Taven wins tonight then it stands to ask why didn't he just beat whoever he pins tonight cleanly in their first match? If someone else wins, then this match didn't really accomplish anything because all three challengers should have title shots due to them because they weren't defeated cleanly.
In fact, why are we doing Defy or Deny at all? Defy or Deny should involve people who have been thorns in the champions side but haven't done enough to earn a title shot, so that the outcome is either someone earning a title shot that he/she previously did not have coming to him/her or that a perennial thorn in the champion's side is barred from contention and has to find something else to do.
With the set-up we have here, management is taking three worthy challengers and putting them in a match where either nothing will change (because all should be owed title shots already) or one of them will be proven unworthy... but if management wanted to determine these wrestlers' worthiness as challengers then why not just give them the title shots they are owed?
Anyway, the match itself. We started off with several minutes of Taven stalling while everyone else stood around and did nothing. The announcers talked about fan reactions to Taven, including Ian Riccaboni putting over fans who were supporting Taven on Twitter. Why would you acknowledge someone rooting for a heel when you don't have to?
You'd think that Taven's antics would have come to an end by means of the three babyfaces surrounding him on the outside and forcing him back to the ring, but instead they eventually decide to just fight each other while he sits on the outside and mocks them for doing so. Some babyfaces these are. They did eventually corner him, but it was after he had snuck in for a roll-up to almost eliminate someone TWICE, and they only got their hands on him because his attack on PCO failed.
So the ROH World Champion spent the first half of this match acting like a total comedy goof. Eventually he managed to get out of the three-on-one situation when one of the babyfaces accidentally hit the other.
PCO got to run wild and the babyfaces eventually started to fight each other and it turned into a normal match. Then the Kingdom came down to ringside. So despite the big deal ROH made in January about how they were going to "empower referees" to stop this sort of thing and blah blah blah, the Kingdom are able to just stroll down to ringside and interfere in every single Matt Taven match even- ones where they have been "banned from ringside." I feel like an idiot for giving this company a chance on this sort of thing again. At this point ROH is just like WWE or TNA, where no promise of a reboot or any sort of major change in how things are done should be taken seriously.
PCO got DQed for hitting Taven with a chair after Taven had done the same to him (the referee did not see the initial chairshot because Marseglia had the referee distracted). Once PCO left, Taven squared off with Haskins, then with Flip, and then we got a short but decent three-way segment that ended when Taven rolled Haskins up and pulled the tights for extra leverage. Well... at least Haskins didn't lose because Bully Ray interfered again. Taven and Flip had a great final two segment (aside from the NJPW-style "count-outs only apply when we want to do our big tease spot), with Taven winning cleanly.
To recap, we had two challengers eliminated via nefarious means and the third defeated cleanly. In other words, we're in the same exact place we would have been if Taven had just beaten Flip cleanly the first time, except that this way we got to have yet another big main event with interference in it... because if there was any lesson to be learned from the general reaction to G1 Supercard, it was definitely that fans want to see more bullsh*t in big matches.
This was yet another middling show from ROH. The booking once again betrays itself as the same uninspired WWE/TNA booking masquerading as an alternative that it was while Cody and the Bucks had the run of the place, and everything but Lethal vs. Briscoe felt strangled by either a lack of time or pat booking.