Welcome to this month’s installment of BRM’s monthly “This Day in Wrestling History” Review Series. This month we’re going to try an experiment, as we go back to the recent past: a mere two years ago. The experiment is to determine whether knowing there is something of a light at the end of the tunnel makes Bullet Club-dominated 2017 ROH less frustrating to watch.
THE BOYS vs. CCK (Travis Banks & Chris Brookes) - 4.75/10
The Boys using their “be Dalton’s human chair” skills as an evasion spot was pure genius. This was a decent seven-minute match. One can argue that the Dalton Castle’s comedy manservants shouldn’t have lasted so long against RevPro’s tag champs, but I thought CCK got in a large enough share of the offense that it wasn’t a problem.
ADAM PAGE vs. KENNY KING - 6.5/10
They had a very good match for the less than nine minutes they were given, but nine minutes is way too short a time for two guys who are supposed to be up-and-coming new singles stars. The story of the match was that King kept chasing the Royal Flush and eventually managed to hit it for the win. One thing that was fully on display here was the “we’re here to cheer for Bullet Club” mentality of the crowd that had thoroughly taken over the promotion by this point. In hindsight, it makes the booking of Kenny King’s babyface turn by putting him against various members of Bullet Club over the next few months a clear mistake- and one that should have been apparent to the booker at the time, given the way the main event of Best in the World 2017 went when the crowd cheered Cody cheating to beat Daniels and win the title despite being an embodiment of so much of what ROH has stood against simply because he happened to be wearing a Bullet Club t-shirt). Of course, Kenny’s booking after winning the TV Title and after moving away from Bullet Club did him no favors either, so it’s not solely being programmed against Bullet Club that prevented him from getting over like a babyface the way ROH wanted, but I do think it set him off on the wrong foot and contributed to the failure by not giving him that base of fan support that might have made fans care about him enough to not lose interest while he spent most of the fall facing a litany of undercard or outsider challengers who hadn’t done sh*t to earn their title shots in what were clearly nothing more than space-filler title defenses.
LUCHA LIBRE RULES MATCH:
Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero vs. Misitco & Titan - 5.5/10
This was a very spotty Lucha match. They did a good job of milking their big spots for all they could, but the match was basically just six or seven big spots over eleven and a half minutes. It was very clear that the young guys were carrying the older guys, who looked gassed rather quickly into the match. Ultimo Guerrero looked nowhere near as good here as he would in ROH next spring.
JAY LETHAL vs. JOSH BODOM - 6/10
Once again we get two very talented wrestlers getting short-changed on time. This was good for a match that went less than ten minutes, although the story was a bit disjointed. When Silas Young came out to distract Lethal, I groaned in frustration. Does the fact the distraction didn’t cause Lethal to lose make it a little better? Yes (although it makes Bodom look a little worse). But that initial groan of frustration in and of itself is a problem, because it’s not something I’d be doing if this sort of thing wasn’t happening WAY too frequently.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Silas charges into the ring and he and Lethal brawl. Silas wins the brawl because Lethal is tired and Silas isn’t. Referees pulled Silas off of Lethal. There was no reason they couldn’t have done this exact same thing while having Silas run out to attack Lethal after the match rather than showing up and trying to distract him during the match first.
BULLY RAY & THE BRISCOES vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, & BUSHI) - 1.5/10
Ian Riccaboni pointed out that this was the first time that Jay Briscoe and BUSHI had been in the ring together since BUSHI spit green misted into Briscoe’s eyes a few months ago. On the one hand I appreciate Ian trying to make this match feel like there is something more to it than the pathetically transparent space-filler that 80% of the matches on these joint tours had become by this point (and that probably 65% of all ROH matches had become at this point), but on the other hand, if Jay Briscoe hasn’t cared enough about it to cut a promo on BUSHI in the intervening three months- or even enough to demand that Naito tag BUSHI in at the beginning of this match- and BUSHI mists people a good percentage of his matches and no one seems to put it over as anything particularly bad, it kind of makes Ian feel like he’s purposely blowing things out of proportion, which makes him come across as phony, which is the worst thing you can have from your babyface announcer.
Bully didn’t sell much for BUSHI, and got to be the big guy chopping the crap out of him, because Bully is totally not a selfish piece of crap who is in it only for himself. He demanded Naito, and when he got him, they both began to stall for a long time. A about ten seconds passed form the time Bully last touched BUSHI to the time he rolled into the corner. A further seven seconds passed before Naito tagged in. Then we had a stretch of ONE MINUTES FORTY-ONE SECONDS where they just circled each other aside from each guy doing one spot where the other guy goes to the wrestler just walks away. FOR OVER A MINUTE AND A HALF.
Then we got a headlock. They actually did a great job working the headlock, but right after two straight minutes of nothing is not the right time to start working at headlock. At this point it felt like the entire match at started over, and the last five minutes of my time had been completely wasted.
Making matters worse was the fact that towards the end of the minute and a half of stalling, the crowd began to chant “WE WANT TABLES!” Fans chanting this during a regular match drives me nuts, simply because I know that if they got what they wanted right then and there and one wrestler put the other through a table and then the referee did what the referee is supposed to do in that situation and called for the DQ the fans would all boo and whine about it, even though that was the logical and predictable consequence of the very thing they were asking for.
Anyway, Bully and Naito did some submission spots. Jay got tagged in and things got better. Mark also got to wrestle for a bit. After the Briscoes did all of the work, Bully got to get tagged in for the hot tag and LIJ bumped around for him. We got some dumb crap with Naito doing his dumb poses near Bully. Bully and the Briscoes set up for a Whazzup on BUSHI because I guess they don’t care if they get DQed. Then LIJ actually did hit a Whazzup type of move on Bully right in front of Todd Sinclair, which should have been a DQ but wasn’t.
Having learned that DQs apparently aren’t a thing in this match, BUSHI tried to spit mist at Jay again right in front of Sinclair but Jay ducked it and the mist got in EVIL’s face instead. The Briscoes and Dudley hit a 3-D and Jay pinned BUSHI to finally but put this match out of its misery. Between the stalling, the crap that clearly should have been DQs but wasn’t, and the way the stalling and other Bully Ray “slow things down to a halt” style caused them to lose most of their momentum every time he tagged in, this match was pretty suffocated, not with 85% of the match spent in second gear or lower, and the vast majority of that being first gear.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Dumb. BUSHI spit at Bully Ray. Bully Ray then did the tranquillo pose, and Naito got down and did it next to him, because if there is one thing that Bully Ray’s ROH run has proven, it’s that he has a good eye for identifying what is cool, and a great mind for figuring out the best way to leech onto it. And before you even try to tell me they were setting something up for the future, don’t try, because this didn’t lead to anything. EVIL getting DQed against Bully in their match the next night.
SILAS YOUNG vs. MARK HASKINS - 6.5/10
These guys had a very good match for minutes, but with a frustrating finish. Jay Lethal came out to distract Silas Young like Silas did to him earlier. Unlike in the Lethal vs. Bodom match, in this match the distraction actually worked and Silas lost. Lethal have Haskins the thumbs up and walked away. I know people will try to claim that it’s okay for Lethal to do this because Silas did it to him earlier, but that line of thinking ignores two important facts. First of all, this is Ring of Honor and that sort of behavior is frowned upon even more than it theoretically is in promotions. Secondly, the purpose of a babyface doing something like that is to get some measure of revenge on the heel. Lethal doesn’t need to do this get revenge on Silas because he’s booked against him in a f*cking STREET FIGHT tomorrow night! Matches are where the babyface ultimately gets his/her revenge on the heel. Causing a distraction in a feud like this is pathetic and petty. It’s a heel move, and a babyface should not be engaging in it.
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH FOR THE ROH TV TITLE:
KUSHIDA(c) vs. Marty Scurll vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dalton Castle (w/the Boys) - 7.25/10
G-d damn it. I forgot about Hiromu and his stupid cat. And that Dalton Castle used to be a goofball who would do wacky poses that opponents would sell as if they were confused by the pose instead of just attacking him. Anyway, we got Hiromu holding Darryl caught between Dalton doing his pose and Marty flapping his arms because this is what passes for pro wrestling nowadays. Thank G-d for KUSHIDA coming off the top rope with big forearm to nail Hiromu and end this bullsh*t.
And I also forgot that the announcers used to play along like the stuffed cat could talk and pretend it was on commentary with them. So we’ve got Marty and KUSHIDA having a good sequence in the ring in a G-d damn title match… and on commentary, Ian Riccaboni is asking a stuffed a question. It’s no wonder I used to regularly have meltdowns while watching this sh*t.
Dumb crap aside, this was easily the best thing we’ve seen all night, with lots of great four-way action. But of course we can’t have a clean finish here in Ring of Delirious and Bullet Club. We have to get a spot where Dalton Castle has the match won by Adam Page comes out and pulls the referee out of the ring. Bullet Club tries to cheat via umbrella shot. He succeeds in hitting Dalton Castle with the umbrella but the crowd pops because 1) everyone loves Bullet Club, 2) everyone loves weapon shots, and 3) Marty Scurll is the hometown guy. This was a full two months after the debacle in the main event at Best in the World 2017 that I mentioned earlier, and it’s been well over a year since Bullet Club initially turned heel and kept getting cheered, so there is no excuse for the booker to not see this crowd reaction coming. And yes, this was expected to get a heel reaction from the crowd because Ian Riccaboni got (rightfully) bent out of shape about all of this.
KUSHIDA manages to duck the umbrella shot that Marty aimed towards him, disposed of Marty, then pinned Dalton Castle after Back to the Future. While Dalton and Page would actually have a singles match (on TV, at a taping two months later, airing a whole three months later), Dalton clearly having the ROH TV Title won here and only not getting the victory due to outside interference never led to Dalton getting a TV Title shot. They were about to put Dalton over in the Soaring Eagle Cup. Doing a clean job to the TV champion wouldn’t have hurt him. Or, even better, DON’T DO A F*CK FINISH, AND JUST PIN SOMEONE ELSE.
One other thing I have to bring up here was a comment Ian Riccaboni made about the Boys having made sure to get a manager’s license so that they could be out here for Dalton’s match. I really like the idea of manager’s licenses and think they are a great detail to make things feel a little more sports-like if the concept is enforced in a consistent manner. But when you have an announcer talking about manager’s licenses as Ian Riccaboni often does, but ignoring so much of the other stupid sh*t that goes on that works against a “real sports” feel, it just makes thing even more frustrating than if Ian hadn’t brought the concept up at all, because it makes it feel like the promotion is so blinded by their own belief that everything they’re doing is so damn great that they’re having the announcer focus on a detail that 99% of fans (myself included, and as you can tell by my reviews, I pay a lot more attention to detail than most people) wouldn’t particularly care if you never brought up and yet can’t see the obvious major flaws in their own storylines. It’s like the promotion is police officer who sees a lunatic running around naked and stabbing people random people in a mall with a hunting knife, and when the officer catches and arrests the guy he tells him “you’re going downtown, buddy. Public indecency is a crime.” It’s not that what he is saying is wrong or an unimportant thing, but it pretty obviously pales in comparison to the multiple counts of attempted murder that go unmentioned.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Young Bucks(c) vs. The Addiction - 8/10
The Addiction jumped the bell on the Bucks. This established a babyface vs. heel dynamic that they stuck to for the entire match, with no stupid bullsh*t from Bullet Club trying to be cool heels while also trying to be babyfaces. Yes, there were some spots here that felt a little too choreographed, but this was an awesome action-packed tag team match, and was the Match of the Night BY FAR.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Cody Rhodes(c) vs. Sanada - DUD!
Ian Riccaboni tells us that Cody has been a “barnstorming champion” defending the title against “people whose names we can’t even say on Ring of Honor programming.” We can add this whole thing to the list of angles they did with Cody/Bullet Club that I can’t possibly fathom how they thought these things would make Cody a heel. Not only is he going around proving himself various challengers like a champion is f*cking supposed to do, but the company disapproves of him doing this, so it makes him look like a rebel. Even worse was the “people whose names we can’t even say on Ring of Honor programming” bit because it makes the company feel like a WWE-esque propaganda machine that seeks to control the information coming to its fans and will give anyone who turns persona non grata the politburo airbrush treatment.
It’s so f*cking backwards! Not only was this something ROH had let other champions do in the past (including the previous champion, Christopher Daniels), but you’d think that when ROH’s World Champion went out and beat a top guy from another company, ROH would want to tell everyone about it because that shows how great their champion is (even Ian Riccaboni had to admit that Cody had been raising the prestige of the ROH World Title by doing this). But no. All of a sudden doing this is a terrible thing that a company would never want because the champion might lose the title. Making matters even worse, a mere month after this show, one of the men who Cody defended the title against in one of these matches that made ROH so unhappy because he wasn’t under ROH contract, Scorpio Sky, would be given an ROH World Title match against Cody on ROH TV without signing an ROH contract first. And just two months after that, then-ROH TV Champion Kenny King would also be booked in title matches against guys who were not under ROH contract- including, inexplicably, Scorpio Sky yet again- and there seemed to be no concern that he could lose the belt to someone not under ROH contract.
Anyway, even before the bell we got fifty seconds of stalling from Cody building up to offering Sanada a handshake, then snubbing him on it, and then walking around and posing and stalling. Then the bell rang… and Cody went to the outside to stall some more. Two minutes and eleven seconds passed before they finally locked up, all due to Cody’s stupid bullsh*t.
After finally locking up they did a sequence that is basically a slower-paced version of your standard sequence that ends in an indy stand-off. Now Sanada offers Cody a handshake and snubs him when Cody goes to accept it. Sanada points to his head to show us all that he’s so smart… and is promptly kicked in the stomach and then hit with an uppercut by Cody, making Sanada look like an idiot.
Sanada counters the disaster kick with a dropkick and then goes for a dive. Cody moves out of the way enough that Sanada deices to pull up and catch himself on the ropes, but instead of going after Cody, he just flips back into the ring. Oh great. Now they’re both stalling. The announcers try to sell this bullsh*t as “mind games,” which is a phrase that needs to be erased from the wrestling vernacular because of bullsh*t like this.
We spend another minute with Cody stalling and eventually trying to walk out of the match when Naito appears on the stage to block his way. So f*cking what? If Cody wants to get out of having to defend the title against Sanada tonight then what is Naito going to do to him? If Naito touches him, it will be a DQ and Cody will retain his title. Or even if Cody doesn’t want to get hit by Naito, why doesn’t he just go through the crowd?
Naito forces Cody back towards the ring, where Sanada grabs him from behind and lays him across the apron and does… something. We don’t see what it is because the director thought it was more important to zoom on Naito just standing on the stage. Sanada hit a forearm, then hit a dropkick in the ring for a nearfall… and f*cking Cody rolls right back to the outside. Sanada follows him out, at which point Cody hides behind the announcers, then throws Ian Riccaboni at Sanada to get an advantage. He runs Sanada into the barricade, and then we’ve got another twenty to thirty seconds of Cody showboating before going back to the outside to follow up.
Cody went on offense, but of course he would stop after ever move or two to spend a bunch of time showboating, because in Cody’s mind being a great pro wrestling heel means being a living cartoon character from the 1980s. At one point he did a about half of a Garvin Stomp sequence with so much showboating in between than that it took almost two minutes.
We would later get a break of almost forty seconds when someone decided it was necessary for Cody to fall on Ian Riccaboni and camera focused on Ian selling, while Cody also sold on the outside and Sanada did absolutely nothing. Even when Sanada was on offense, this rarely got out of first gear. They eventually started doing the big strike exchange. This spot is usually slow-paced, but in most matches that makes perfect sense because the wrestlers are exhausted by that point. In this match it felt like there was no way they could have possibly been exhausted going so damn slow and spending so much time stalling that just came off as another slow spot rather than an emotional battle where the wrestlers have to take the time to gather their energy before throwing a strike.
Just about everything in this match felt slow. They speed it up with Sanada hitting some (not very good) spinning kicks… then immediately slow it down by having Cody spit at him. Sanada fires up and starts to pound on Cody in the corner… and then they immediately slow it down having Sanada go over to apologize to Sinclair for shoving him when Sinclair tried to pull him off (which was not a DQ). This set up a ref bump, because it’s a Delirious-booked main event ROH World Title match with the f*cking space clown involved.
During this ref bump Sanada hit Cody with the Cross Rhodes, because stupid shortcuts like guys with no history whatsoever hitting each other’s finishers are pretty much entirety of Cody’s bag of tricks. This resulted in a visual pinfall, because why shouldn’t a guy who isn’t anything more than a glorified NJPW midcarder at this point pin the ROH World Champion cleanly? The fans counted this pinfall… and then kept counting even after Sanada stopped covering Cody, continuing on until ten and then all chanting “TEN! TEN! TEN!” because they don’t actually care about who should be the rightful world champion. They just want to chant things. And creating and encouraging this sort of kitsch-obsessed environment is how the combination of Bullet Club and WWE have ruined pro wrestling.
They did another spot or two resulting in Cody getting the LeBell Lock for a false finish. Then he did the “YES!” chant for a while and called out Bryan Danielson, because it’s always a good idea to tease a match you have no way of guaranteeing you will ever be able to deliver on. Then they did one or two more spots culminating in reversing attempted finishers before the space clown hit his finisher and got the win.
This might well be the single worst ROH World Title match of all time. It was two minutes of decent stuff smothered to death by about fourteen minutes of stalling. Any time they did anything for the first three quarters of the match, they killed their own momentum with all of their stalling. Throw in a completely pointless ref bump and someone getting a visual pinfall on the ROH World Champion, and you’ve got a perfect example of why when I finally get around to updating my ROH World Title Reign rankings (I’ve seen all of Dalton Castle and Lethal II’s defenses, and have one more left to watch from both Cody and Daniels), Cody will almost certainly get the second to last spot, above only Kyle “Zero Successful Defenses” O’Reilly.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. Cody, who has been champion for all of two months and beaten exactly one member of the ROH roster in a title match, demands to know "who's left?" and makes an open challenge. Dalton Castle comes out to answer it but of course Cody walks away, because what better way to end a show than telling the fans they'll be getting another world title match and then not giving it to them? Absolutely nothing was gained by this.
Not only did this show blow chunks, but my experiment was a colossal failure as well. It was like I was back in 2017 again and hating pretty much everything, and any benefit to knowing that Cody would eventually leave was negated by the frustration caused by two years’ worth of hindsight about the things that were problems back then and remain problems today. Things like Bully Ray’s bullsh*t, the use of LIJ on these tours, Kenny King’s constant turns and foundering, and the fact that Lethal vs. Silas just never seems to end. The tag title match pretty much singlehandedly saved this from going down as one of the worst shows in ROH history.
But at least this show, for me, is now history, and I can assure you that we will not be visiting 2017 ROH ever again. Next month, we will be taking our first look at a promotion that I’m kind of surprised it took us this long to get to, and a show with a pretty good reputation so I won’t want to punch a wall while watching it.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Ian Riccaboni claimed that in ROH “the hair is part of the uniform” and thus pulling your opponent down by hair is legal, which not only have we never heard before in any pro wrestling promotion, but the referee immediately admonished Silas for using this tactic. How does the G-d damn lead announcer not know what the rules are?