OPENING SEGMENT - HORRENDOUS! We open with Maria Manic once again beating up security for NO REASON WHATSOEVER. The ring announcer bravely tries to interview her when she stalks towards him, but she assaults him, too. Then she picks up the mic and talks for the very first time in her six months in ROH. She says “I’m Maria Manic. I’m with Ring of Honor. This is my house!”
1. That’s it? She talks for the first time and says nothing? It would have been better to just keep her mute.
2. You’re “with Ring of Honor?” Really? Are you sure about that? Because all I ever see you do is go around assaulting ROH employees for no reason. I mean really! Where is Tasha Steelz or whoever our top babyface is now to stop this monster? She goes around assaulting innocent people. How is she not a heel? What is likable about her?
DRAGON LEE vs. JEFF COBB - 7/10
While I will admit that I was hoping this match would be longer than it would, they used the full eleven minutes they were given to tell their story of size differential very well. Also on their game here tonight were Ian and Caprice, doing a great job of putting everything over. Props are particularly due to Caprice for pointing out that not only was this a rare loss for Cobb, but it was the first time that Cobb had been pinned by someone who wasn’t the current ROH World Champion.
Knowing what both men will be doing at Final Battle, I really love the booking here as well. Dragon Lee will be challenging for the ROH World TV Title against Shane Taylor, so not only does he pick up the win here, but he proves that he can defeat a much larger man heading into his match with the much larger Shane Taylor. Cobb, on the other hand, is coming off of a loss in an ROH World Title match and will be facing off against the rather expendable Dan Maff in a random undercard matchup at Final Battle, and thus is in a perfect place to lose this match here to Dragon Lee before we begin rebuilding him. I also love little things like Cobb going from wrestling Rush in the main event of the previous show to now wrestling Rush’s brother Dragon Lee in the opening match of this show. That little thread connects the two matches in a way that illustrates how Cobb has fallen without the announcers beating the point into the ground.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Briscoes(c) vs. The Master & The Machine (Griff Garrison & Marcus Kross) - 6.5/10
The previous match was actually the result of fan voting for who Dragon Lee’s opponent would be. That same mechanism (fans were given four choices to vote for) explains how these nobodies are getting a title shot here. The other teams involved were 1) the Tate Twins, AKA Dalton Castle’s former Boys, 2) some other team so minor I didn’t remember, and 3) Silas Young and Josh Woods, who are currently 5-0 as a team. Them not getting a title shot yet is ridiculous and I don’t like them being put at the same level as the other three teams, but I do think that if you’re going to do this, you at the very least need to let Silas cut a promo on it to help build to them getting the title shot that they have, quite frankly, already earned via their excellent record.
The match itself was great for the time it got, and a lot more competitive than I was expecting, while still allowing the world tag team champions to feel like the dominant force they are. That was a difficult line to toe, and these four did an excellent job of it.
ULTIMO GUERRERO vs. ELI ISOM vs. P.J. BLACK vs. KENNY KING (w/Amy Rose) - 7.25/10
This match is the three guys whose weren’t chosen to face Dragon Lee in the opener, who now get to face freakin’ Ultimo Guerrero instead. Not a bad consolation prize, even if it is a four-way. Hell, with UG being the current CMLL World Heavyweight Champion, I’d actually argue that Cobb is getting the short end of the stick here, as Black, King, and Isom are now each just three seconds away from a world title match.
The match itself was an excellent four-way action match. Once again we have a random midcard four-way match involving P.J. Black, a famous luchador, and two other great wrestlers, one of whom is renowned for his athleticism in which they mange to hit everything in such a wonderfully fluid way that nothing felt staged. I’m really just saying this to plug my choice for the best match all year you haven’t seen anyone talk about, which was Bandido vs. Flip Gordon vs. P.J. Black vs. Caristico from ROH Masters of the Craft 2019 back in April. Go watch it.
SHANE TAYLOR & RUSH vs. MATT TAVEN & DALTON CASTLE - 7/10
The configuration here was also picked by the fans. Props are due to ROH for coming up with choices that would feel interesting no matter what the results were. The way we wound up was probably for the best (funny how that works out, isn’t it?), as pairing of Taven and Castle, who are both heels in the middle of slow babyface turns, was highly entertaining my favorite bit was Taven responding to fans cheering for Dalton Castle when Taven wanted a tag by saying “what about Taven? What about me?”
The story of the match was Taven’s apparently previously-injured ankle getting worked over. While Shane Taylor was cheating to do this, Ian Riccaboni was telling me about how Shane Taylor volunteers to help his community. Can we not do that if Taylor is going to be a heel? I know that Ian was trying to draw a line between Shane Taylor the babyface person and the mean Shane Taylor who tries to cheat to get ahead, but I don’t see how we can possibly not process them as one and the same. If Ian tells us about it, it should be kayfabe true. I don’t know if this is Ian doing this on his own or if this is him following instructions given to him by the booker, but either way it’s bad because it creates an ineffective character because we don’t know how to feel about him. And no, this does not make Shane Taylor the much lauded “tweener.” A tweener is someone who is crossing a line, but we can sympathize with him/her because we completely understand the frustrations that are causing him/her to approach that line. This Shane Taylor character is someone who sometimes is far on one side of the line and other times is far on the other side of the line, with no reason why he decides to do things on one side one day and the other side the next. A tweener should have a visible curve; Shane Taylor is a series of scattered points on the graph.
This was a solid match for the time and star-power involved, but once again it was shorter than I would have liked to see, especially given that they wasted so much time with gaga early on. On the bright side, Taven sold very well and the right guy got the win. Taylor really does feel like he belongs in there with the main eventers at this point. That is partially due to a definite dip in quality of ROH singles main eventers over the past few years (only Lethal and Dalton and sometimes Taven feel like they are up there in terms of singles ability with the likes of Cole, Strong, Styles, and O’Reilly, whereas Cobb, Rush, PCO, 2017-2019 Scurll, and especially Cody and Taylor feel like they’re at least a step down), but part of that is also definitely due to Taylor’s improvement over the past year.
Taylor and Rush had an interesting little interaction while posing with their respective titles, which is hopefully meant to tease a title match early next year (I fully expect Taylor to drop his TV Title to Dragon Lee at Final Battle).
2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH:
Mark Haskins vs. Jonathan Gresham - 8.5/10
This was a “fans pick the stipulations” match, with the losing choices being Pure rules and European rules. Personally, I really would have liked to see heel Gresham in a Pure rules match, but oh well.
These two didn’t do such a good job with the stipulation they were given in that their way out of it was to do the first fall as a double-pinfall, but other than that this was an awesome technical wrestling match with a creative finish that really worked for me as the sort of thing that separates Gresham from your typical cheating heel by making him seem smarter. He’s not just a cheater, but an evil genius, too.
The only thing in this match I didn’t like other than the double-pinfall was Haskins retaliating to Lethal’s testicular claw by taking advantage of a later referee distraction to apply one of his own to Lethal. I like the idea of a babyface who is willing to cheat against heels who cheat against him, but a member of a group whose mission statement is to restore honorable conduct to ROH shouldn’t be that person. The fact that this sort of thing happens so often shows what a creative failure LifeBlood has been, even if Williams and especially Haskins and Bandido have gotten themselves over with their wrestling alone.
On the bright side, at least Bully Ray didn’t run in.
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Tracy Williams vs. Flip Gordon - 7.5/10
The other choices the fans were given for this match were either a strap match or a Singapore cane match, so at least the fans chose wisely here. Someone who didn’t choose wisely in this match was Ian Riccaboni, whose forced quoting of lyrics became insufferable rather quickly. Another poor choice was the run-in finish. Yes, I understand that they have a story going where Bateman keeps targeting Tracy, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to see what feels like it could be a blow-off for this feud end via interference. This was a GREAT brawl, and I loved that they made a point of showing us that they did have Singapore canes stashed under the ring in case that stip was chosen (I’m assuming this was all worked, but who knows), but this feud has been going on for months and hasn’t gone anywhere, and seeing it continue to go nowhere while they set up another feud is frustrating as hell.
SOMETHING IS GOING ON IN THE BACK! GET THE CAMERAS THERE QUICKLY! - Someone, presumably Taven’s mysterious stalker, has laid Taven’s Kingdom stablemates Vinny Marseglia & T.K. O’Ryan out backstage.
Taven demands that the backstage workers get some help, then heads out to the ring to grab a mic. He calls out whichever coward did this and demands that he show himself. The lights went out, then a spotlight came on, which blinded Taven… and then Vinny Marseglia showed up behind Taven and attacked him.
The physical aspects of this between the wrestlers were executed very well (I presume O’Ryan is in on this and he was the one who beat the guy controlling the lights and music) and the sense of betrayal was very palpable. Everything else, though, was just poor decision-making.
First of all, the f*cking axe. Vinny clearly had no problem using his axe on Taven, as after he knocked Taven down he dragged it across Taven’s forehead to cut him with it... so why did he initially attack Taven by hitting him with the handle of the axe instead of just swinging the axe at him? And at the end of the attack he hit with the axe like Hunter hits people with his sledgehammer, except that this is even dumber because at least if Hunter screws up, he’s not at risk of slicing his own fingers off. Issues like this are we don’t carry f*cking murder weapons to the ring!
Then there are the f*cking balloons. Who is releasing them from under the ring? Or am I to believe that Marseglia possesses the power of balloon-o-kenesis? While I am willing to allow the music to be explained away by saying that O’Ryan got control of it (although that presumes that it is revealed that O’Ryan was on in this, although he pretty much has to be at this point, especially because some of the "stalker" footage was of Taven AND Marseglia arriving at an arena), but just the idea of playing this f*cking serene beach music was idiotic. Why? Just because it’s out of place? So what? Just because something is more artsy does not make it better.
Also, whoever decided to do that rapid zooming in and out with the camera should be fired. And also flogged. And then forced to eat the camera. That made me nauseous, which was not a good thing when the next thing I’m going to see is Vinny Marseglia LICKING UP MATT TAVEN’S BLOOD.
ROH WORLD SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Villain Enterprises (PCO & Marty Scurll) & Dan Maff(substituting for Brody King)(c) vs. Colt Cabana, Cheeseburger, & Jeff Cobb - 7/10
Maff got zero reaction from the crowd when he was revealed as VE’s partner, but I, for one, and glad to see that he has finally recovered from that car accident that cost him the ROH Tag Team Titles. I fully support him being allowed to choose a partner to get his due rematch (given recent events, I don’t think BJ Whitmer coming back for even one more match is a realistic possibility at this point.
Cheeseburger and Cabana both got zero reaction from me when they were revealed as participants in this match because every single time that ROH does a throw-away six-man tag title defense either over sees or with a mystery team in a main event, one of those two is involved. The only way they could have made this feel even more like a throwaway match is if the third man was Delirious. And now that I think about it, why was Cobb even an option here if he was already booked earlier in the night?
Burger was, of course, back to being little goof semi-jobber Cheeseburger here instead of the developed leader we have seen him be in the Shinobi Shadow Squad this year, which is a frustrating step backwards that damages my ability to get behind him any time they try to push him again.
They match was a strong effort and built well, but they were fighting an uphill battle due to the fact that not one person thought the titles would change hands here. Maff looked fine, but not good enough to get me excited to see him wrestle again. I do think that having him tag himself in when PCO went up for the PCO-sault was a good finish because it builds some tension between him and PCO for their match tomorrow night while also allowing Maff to remind everyone what his finisher is because he hasn’t wrestle in ROH in over fourteen and a half years.
This was a great show from ROH, despite the various weaknesses and disappointments that I addressed in my review. I can’t say that it got me particularly excited for any of the big matches at Final Battle, but it also didn’t feel like a waste of time, which many of the November shows have over the past few years. Definitely a good night for ROH, and one I certainly recommend that you check out on your own.