JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. DRAGON LEE - 7/10
They started off with some typical indy opening stuff before Dragon Lee was able to bait Gresham into a strike exchange, and Gresham needed to rely on a sack-tap while the ref was distracted to get the advantage. Gresham worked over Dragon Lee’s arm for a bit, but Dragon Lee was able to start making his comeback after once again baiting Gresham into abandoning his game plan. We got one more instance of this towards the finish, just to hammer the story home, with Dragon Lee winning in the end.
This was a great opener with the prerequisite action to get the crowd excited and told a great story as well, but I didn’t like the booking here on several levels. First, I really hate this story the announcers were telling about Gresham that he needed to develop a “dirtier” (as Caprice put it) side (they would later also talk about him “developing an edge”) in order to win matches because he has always been a great technical wrestler but opponents have been beating him by playing dirty. This is RING OF HONOR. The technician can’t just learn how to adapt to and overcome the heel’s cheating tactics and still win cleanly?
Making matters worse is the fact that they did basically this same angle at this time last year with Kenny King, and since then Kenny has engaged in a mediocre on-again, off-again, feud with Jay Lethal that hasn’t elevated Kenny to main event status even though he has been feuding with the guy the company calls their “franchise” babyface who was also the ROH World Champion for the first leg of their feud, so why should I think the booking will be able to serve Gresham any better?
That being said, if we absolutely must do this angle, I thought that Dragon Lee was a brilliant choice of opponent for Gresham here, as it let the announcers refer back to their BOSJ match a few months ago which Dragon Lee won, and Gresham winning here using his new heelish tactics would be a great way to show that this change has worked for him by having him defeat someone he had lost to just a few months ago when he was still wrestling cleanly (and Dragon Lee isn’t the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion anymore, so there should be no problem with him taking the loss).
Which is why I was completely baffled when Dragon Lee won this match cleanly.
WORLD TITLE MATCH SEGMENT - Decent. Taven was cheered to a disgusting degree, especially considering that he was wearing a Red Sox jersey in New York. Taven cut a promo saying he would beat Jay Lethal tonight. Kenny King came out and cut a great promo demanding to be added to the title match (and Kenny is still owed an ROH World Title shot for winning the Honor Rumble). Taven accepted, cutting this big, arrogant PRO WRESTLING PROMO on Kenny… and Kenny responded by simply saying “Thank you. See ya later. That’s all I needed.” and walking off, his goal having been accomplished. I thought that was fantastic.
After Kenny left, Jay Lethal came out (sans music) and yelled at Taven for adding someone to their match without consulting him… and Lethal does kind of have a point. Then again, I’m not sure why everyone is taking known conspiracy nut Matt Taven’s word as the truth when we haven’t heard that management has signed off on this yet. Taven and Lethal brawled until security came out to pull them apart. The announcers eventually back-tracked and said they were now awaiting word on whether this change was official or not.
COAST 2 COAST vs. THE BOUNCERS vs. SOLDIERS OF SAVAGERY (Jesper Kaun & Moses Maddox) - 4.5/10
The Soldiers of Savagery got DQed for putting Beer City Bruiser through a table. Milonas was down two on one for a while but BCB came back and the Bouncers got the win.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Vinny Marseglia & T.K. O’Ryan of the Kingdom showed up and laid the Bouncers out with chairs. O’Ryan cut a promo complaining that they should have been the #1 contenders and not the Bouncers. Marseglia then lit a cigar and put it out on BCB’s chest. O’Ryan had a verbal confidence that I don’t remember him having before. He decided that since he was in the ring already, he would call Rush out for their match. Rush came out and we got…
T.K. O’RYAN vs. RUSH - 6.5/10
O’Ryan was able to believably hold his own against Rush for quite a bit, which definitely felt like a step up for him.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Rush got attacked by a fan wearing a Rush shirt and mask… who, of course, turned out to be Dalton Castle. Dalton beat Rush up for a bit, then hit Rush with his own finisher. It would have been nice if some security had shown up to pull this crazy fan off of Rush (Dalton kept his mask on for quite a while). And even if security figured out who it was as quickly as Colt Cabana and I did, they still should have come out and tried pull Dalton off of Rush.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Matt Taven(c) vs. Jay Lethal vs. Kenny King - 8.5/10
Alex Shelley joined the commentary team for this match because he is challenging for the world title at Summer Supercard. Jay Lethal demanded that Amy Rose be sent to the back, due to her pretty clearly being in league with Kenny King.
This was an excellent three-way, with lots of creative stuff that felt natural rather than feeling like planned spots. My favorite bit was Taven having King in a figure four and Lethal coming off the top rope for Hail to the King, which Taven was able to move out of the way of, but doing so aided King in turning the hold over and reversing the pressure so it was now Taven caught in the submission. The finish (King hit Lethal with Lethal Injection followed by Royal Flush but Taven grabbed King and laid him out with the Climax before stealing the pin on Lethal) combined with the post-match segment (Taven shook Lethal’s hand, then kicked him in the nuts) was a creative way of keeping the various issues between these wrestlers alive (King thinks he should be champion because he pinned Lethal in Toronto last November but the referee overturned it when he noticed Lethal had his foot on the ropes, Taven still hasn’t actually pinned Lethal on his own, and King now has further evidence that he can put Lethal down for the count and yet he wasn’t able to do so here because Taven stole the pin).
VILLAIN ENTERPRISES vs. P.J. BLACK & LIFEBLOOD (Mark Haskins, Tracy Williams, & Bandido) - 8.5/10
An awesome, all-action eight-man tag. The only misstep to me was Flip Gordon running away from ringside. If he had an injury and couldn’t wrestle, just don’t have him in the match. Having him do some stuff and then getting run off puts the babyfaces at an unfair numbers advantage.
STREET FIGHT FOR THE ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
Guerrillas of Destiny(c) vs. the Briscoes - A PERFECT 10/10!
This one might as well have been real. It sure seemed like it was. If you like crazy violent brawls, this match is for you. If you like matches with ultra-hot crowds, this match is for you. If you like intense, emotional matches, this match is for you. If you just plain like professional wrestling, this match is for you.
Despite some questionable booking, this was an AWESOME show from ROH. The wrestling was fantastic, with a solid undercard followed by every part of the advertised “triple main event” delivering in spades, and it was by far the easiest time I’ve had sitting through an ROH show since some time in early 2017. Between this show and the TV show I watched to get up to speed for this show, I’m a lot higher on ROH now than I have been in quite a while, and am extremely excited to dive into tomorrow night’s show.