OPENING SEGMENT - Good. Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham came out and Lethal explained why he hit Jay Briscoe with a chair last night. Basically, he has come around to Gresham’s way of thinking that the only way to succeed in the current ROH is to “level the playing field” by doing the same things that the Briscoes, Silas Young, the Guerrillas of Destiny, Rush, Villain Enterprises, Kenny King, the Kingdom, etc. have done, which is to just do whatever they want, regardless of the rules. If all of those guys are going to do it and management clearly isn’t going to take action, then why should he and Gresham play fair when no one else is. Lethal’s delivery was so good here that I was having trouble not nodding along and saying that he has a point. It’s still a heel turn, however, as the Mark Briscoe had done nothing to their Lethal or Gresham before Gresham interfered in the match and before Lethal hit Jay with a chair.
They say they’re coming for the titles. The Briscoes came out and suggested that they fight right now. The Briscoes charged to the ring but Lethal & Gresham bailed. Jay (Briscoe) said that they didn’t want to deny Schadenfreude their scheduled match with the ROH World Tag Team Champions tonight, but they had no problem letting Lethal & Gresham join that match and make it a three-way. Lethal & Gresham were fine with this, and apparently so was management because the commentators treated it like it was official.
TRACY WILLIAMS & FLAMITA vs. VILLAIN ENTERPRISES (Marty Scurll & Flip Gordon) - 6.25/10
Tracy Williams was supposed to team with his LifeBlood teammate Bandido but Bandido is injured, so he got the other luchador on the show to team with him instead. The match was fine. Unsurprisingly, the replacement wrestler who also isn’t a regular member of the roster took the pin.
COLT CABANA INTERVIEWS VILLAIN ENTERPRISES - Colt asks them if they have picked someone to replace the injured Brodie King in tonight’s main event. They tried very hard to get the fans to be the ones to suggest Cabana so it would feel organic but it took way too long for the crowd to catch on, and it was only a small group who did at first. Colt left commentary to prepare for his main event match, leaving Ian alone for a while.
ROH WORLD TV TITLE MATCH:
Shane Taylor(c) vs. Danny Jones - 4.25/10
Yet another TV Title challenger who hasn’t done sh*t to earn a title shot. In this case he is getting a title shot because Shane Taylor wants to disappoint the fans by giving their local favorite a title shot and defeating him. Whatever. I guess it theoretically makes sense, but the real problem is that Taylor keeps defending the title against these random jamokes who aren’t even on the roster and thus everyone knows have no chance of winning. Ian Riccaboni is on commentary talking up how Taylor has now moved into the top ten all-time in terms of days as ROH World TV Champion, and I’m sitting here thinking to myself that Taylor hasn’t actually done anything as champion yet. The closest thing he’s had to a program was going to a draw with Joe Hendry in a Proving Ground match to set up a title shot where he beat Hendry cleanly.
And speaking of Ian’s commentary and Shane Taylor, is Taylor supposed to be a babyface or a heel? Ian’s framing makes him seem like a babyface “taking a chance on himself” and being this great champion, and Taylor is clearly a fighting champion, giving out title shots even to people who don’t deserve title shots, and he almost always wins cleanly… but he also buries the crowd at every opportunity. There seems to be a MAJOR disconnect going on here between either the booker and commentary or the booker and Taylor.
The match was nothing interesting but the finishing sequence (Taylor hitting various big moves on Jones) looked AWESOME.
RAMPAGE BROWN & SILAS YOUNG vs. THE BRAT PACK (Mitch Waterman & Nick Bury) - 6/10
Watching Silas Young play babyface in peril was strange. I was also shocked that Silas wasn’t the one to get the win here, as not only is he the only regular in this match, but the idea of him picking up the win in a tag team match with a partner other than Woods seems like something that can be banked away for whenever Silas and Woods eventually split.
DALTON CASTLE vs. HIKULEO - 6.75/10
Joe Hendry joined Ian on commentary for this match. The crowd (reportedly only 150 people) has been pretty dead so far, so Dalton did his absolute best to get them going before the match.
They told a pretty good story with Dalton trying his amateur wrestling stuff in the beginning but it not working because Hikuleo was too big and Hikuleo was then able to turn the match into a brawl and take over. Dalton finally realized that he had to use a more strike-based offense to get Hikuleo woozy first before trying his amateur stuff and finally found success. The big moment came when Hikuleo got angry and was going to chokeslam Dalton through a table but Joe Henry stopped Hikuleo from doing so. I definitely think that grabbing Hikuleo’s arm should have caused a DQ, but why the hell wasn’t Todd Sinclair out here trying to stop the attempted illegal maneuver?
Anyway, Hendry wound up getting chokeslammed through the table by Hikuleo instead, but this bought Dalton the time he needed to recover, and Dalton got the win soon thereafter. Dalton eventually recognized Hendry for his help, which hopefully means that their team will be back on.
ROH WOMEN OF HONOR WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Kelly Klein(c) vs. Lana Austin - 4/10
Yet another title challenger who hasn’t done sh*t to earn a title shot. Mandy Leon joined Ian on commentary for this match. She tried to do a British accent and failed miserably. This got extremely annoying very quickly, and not in the “I want to see Kelly Klein walk over to her and shut her up” good heel heat way, either. It was annoying in the “makes me want to mute the commentary” way.
Props to Ian for at least acknowledging that it’s rare for a second referee to over-turn a decision like we saw last night. It doesn’t excuse the inconsistency for being bad booking, but it at least makes me as a fan feel that the company isn’t trying to just gloss over the fact. Ditto for the thing with no longer using the referee in last night’s title match, although the “it was his first match in ROH” excuse doesn’t really work because it just makes me wonder why the company gave a first-time referee a freakin’ title match instead of giving him a match where there wasn’t anything on the line that a mistake due to unfamiliarity with the rules could screw up.
On the negative side of commentary was Ian’s decision to ask Many Leon about her f*cking dog instead of calling the championship match. I will never understand why announcers do sh*t like this when the match they are supposed to be calling is right there in front of their faces.
The match itself was rather meh. Lana was a goof for a while, doing way too much gaga before she cut Kelly off and worked her leg over. Kelly made her comeback and got the win in a match that had almost zero suspense because everyone knew that a woman who isn’t a regular part of the roster and hasn’t done a damn thing to earn this title shot in a match with no build of any sort wasn’t walking away with the belt.
JOE HENDRY vs. MATT TAVEN - 7.75/10
Just when I was thinking “I really wish we could get matches like this more often, where two wrestlers get to go out there and just show us what they’ve got in the ring,” Dalton Castle came out to watch the match, which resulted in Taven getting distracted, allowing Hendry to roll him up for the win. I don’t totally hate this as they have recently shown us that Dalton and Taven are good buddies (I hate that, but that’s a different story) while Dalton has also been rather complementary of Hendry on this tour and might have been trying to pay him back after Hendry saved him earlier tonight so you didn’t know who this would benefit and it could be a moment that affects more than one story… but I really wish they would have given us a clean finish.
JAY LETHAL & JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. THE BRISCOES vs. SCHADENFREUDE (Kyle Fletcher & Lucky Kid) - 7.5/10
Newly heel Lethal (along with Gresham) is using music that resembles his heel House of Truth music. The Briscoes, meanwhile, are offering handshakes. I know they turned babyface via the feud with the Guerrillas of Destiny, but it feels like there was a missing promo here. Something along the lines of them telling us how seeing the Guerrillas of Destiny disrespect ROH and the ROH World Tag Team Titles reminded them of why they love ROH so much and what ROH means to them and what ROH stands for. Something to officially announce that they are now babyfaces and give them a new mission statement.
They had a great action match that served to let Lethal and Gresham get over their new characters. If I were booking I definitely would have had Lethal & Gresham pick up the win on Schadenfreude to give them some momentum. I don’t really see what having the Briscoes pin Schadenfreude does for anyone.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Didn’t like it. We went to a commercial for some DVDs, only to have Ian Riccaboni frantically shouting at the director to cut back live because Lethal & Gresham were attacking the Briscoes. The idea here was a fine one to make things feel more spontaneous, but the big mistake was having the Briscoes be the ones to be standing tall at the end of this, sending Lethal & Gresham scampering. Where is the heat in that?
KENNY KING (w/Amy Rose) vs. MARK HASKINS (w/Vicky Haskins) - 7.75/10
This was a very exciting match and they told a good story with both Amy Rose’s constant interference and Kenny King working over Haskins’ back. I am actually fine with the overbooking because it worked into the story of the match by having Vicky finally do something about Amy, but that support is conditional o Mark Haskins’ snapping at King and using a low blow in revenge for King’s own low blow actually being addressed in the storyline. It’s clearly not something a member of LifeBlood should be doing, and thus it needs to be addressed, but it definitely seems like something more in line with the sort of vigilante justice that Gresham has been preaching and that he and Lethal now represent.
COLT CABANA & PCO vs. JEFF COBB & RUSH - 5.5/10
It’s an ROH main event, so of course the stream f*cked up. We didn’t miss much, but no other company has these problems anywhere near as often. And what’s worse is that I’m not watching this live! I’m watching this on demand ALMOST THREE WEEKS LATER! It is COMPLETELY INEXCUSABLE FOR FOOTAGE TO GO UP LIKE THIS! It’s like they don’t even have someone watch the show to make sure there are no streaming issues and that the audio all works, etc. before they post it.
Anyway, they did stuff. Eventually they wound up on the outside and fought there forever without getting counted out. This all happened so that they could do a spot where PCO got kicked down the stairs and “had to be taken to the back” so that he could heroically return less than two minutes later to do a dive onto the wrestles who were still fighting in the aisle-way. And it’s not like anyone was even f*cking surprised when PCO came back. They barely reacted! And that reaction was to the dive more than to the actual return.
This match just wasn’t good. The sequence of op-rope moves that Cabana and PCO hit on Cobb towards the end was clever, but other than that, this match was just guys doing stuff until we got a finish that tried to mirror last night’s main event finish leading to an obligatory brawl between Cobb and Rush as we went off the air.
One thing that was on full display here that I’ve been finding extremely frustrating about ROH right now is the fact that the guys who are in the actual main event picture (Rush, Cobb, PCO) and other guys I’m supposed to take as major stars (Scurll Taylor) just aren’t delivering in the ring to anything near the level of their push. The main event-level work right now is coming from Lethal, Gresham, the Briscoes, Mark Haskins, Matt Taven, and Kenny King. And it’s similar with the storylines. Those “main event” guys don’t have anything even close to interesting going on, especially as compares to Castle/Hendry stuff or Briscoes/Lethal & Gresham. For the first time since I became on ROH fan over a decade ago, I just can’t bring myself to give a sh*t about the world title. There is a world title match between two big stars (Rush and Cobb) on tomorrow’s show, I’m spoiler-free for it, and I probably won’t get around to watching that show for WEEKS. I shouldn’t be more eager to catch up on two months of EVOLVE and to watch some NXT UK and a WCW show from 1990 than I am to watch ROH, but that’s exactly where I am.
And I’m clearly not the only one, either, as I can’t think of any better indictment for the product than to say that here in 2019, with ROH’s first show in Wales, they drew a reported 150 fans. ROH’s VERY FIRST SHOW, with no TV advertising at all, in a city that was independent wrestling capitol of the world at that point, drew MORE THAN TWICE THAT.
This was just plain not a good show from ROH, saved from the bottom of the barrel by two great matches from the company’s workhorses (and two visiting wrestlers)… and it’s not even like those were blow-away matches either. One storyline got some good development, but the majority of the card felt like total filler and the majority of the show had little in-ring merit as well. Quality pro wrestling is not hard for fans to find in 2019. Unless ROH wants to turn into the sort of pathetic shell of a company that draws 150 people on a regular basis, they need to shape up, and quickly.<