ROH TOP PROSPECT TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Austin Gunn vs. Dante Caballero - 4/10
In an eight-minute opener, we needed to have both a ref bump and the ref getting liquor spat in his eyes. Austin Gunn is very good. Much more expressive than his father ever was.
Brian Johnson invaded the commentary booth during this match and complained about Austin Gunn getting attention because he’s Billy Gunn’s kid. He claimed that ROH “doesn’t care about the people who actually make things work around here,” and said we would hear from him every chance he got. Well… I guess we know who the latest person to show up on commentary once a show and have his appearances go nowhere will be. Then again, I’ve seen almost every other show this year and haven’t seen him on commentary, so maybe Delirious has actually learned from his past failures with Rhett Titus, Kelly Klein, Kenny King, Veda Scott, The Cabinet/Rebellion, and the many others I’m sure I’ve forgotten over the years.
P.J. BLACK & OKAMURA vs. SILAS YOUNG & JOSH WOODS - 6/10
Solid tag team wrestling.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Woods accepted Black’s post-match show of respect, which annoyed Silas. The Bouncers, who had been on commentary, came down to the ring to congratulate Silas & Woods on their win and offer them beer. Silas took the beer but then walked out while Woods stayed to drink with the Bouncers. I’m certain they’ve already done this exact same post-match angle with the Bouncers on a previous show.
JENNY ROSE & SUMIE SAKAI vs. THE ALLURE (Angelina Love & Mandy Leon) - DUD!
The babyfaces jumped the heels from behind because the heels had done so to them the last time ROH was in Chicago. They wrestled for a minute or two before Angelina used the hairspray for a blatant DQ. Allure beat up the babyfaces and set up a table but Maria Manic used her magical powers to turn the lights off and teleport into the ring, then she beat up a bunch of security personnel for no reason. In other words, they paid four women to wrestle for several minutes as an excuse to pay a fifth woman to show up and beat up nobodies for the 471st time in the past two and a half months. And this same thing will happen on pretty much every show for the next three months before Maria Manic actually does anything relevant. How does Delirious still have his job?
PROVING GROUND MATCH:
ROH World TV Champion Shane Taylor vs. Joe Hendry - 7/10
Great stuff. This was definitely Taylor’s best singles performance against someone who isn’t a top-level in-ring talent (Cobb, Dragon Lee). He come off like a big mean champion who really made Hendry earn this title shot.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Briscoes(c) vs. Rey Bucanero & Hechicero vs. the Bouncers - 6.5/10
Speaking of title shots, I have no idea what either of these teams have done to earn this shot. The CMLL team feels like a total throwaway team getting title shot like usually happens when ROH does these shows with one of their partner promotions, and The Bouncers are 1-1 since losing a title match cleanly to the Briscoes at Mass Hysteria.
This was your usual ten-minute throwaway ROH midcard match. Throw in the fact that neither of these teams have done anything to earn this title shot and the fact that no consideration for style appears to have been taken before putting the CMLL guys in this match, and you’ve got a microcosm of so much that is wrong with ROH right now.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Even though they lost, the Bouncers decide to stay in the ring and drink beer because they really, truly seem to be raging alcoholics. This is the second time they’re doing this on this show alone! This was done so that they could be assaulted by Vinny Marseglia with a chair until Woods and Silas came out to make the save, which shocked me because Silas teams with Marseglia against them at the PPV, and we only have one show between now and then. I think it would have killed two birds with one stone and made the show better by having this attack occur during the earlier segment, and to have Silas either pull Woods back to stop him from helping or join in on the beatdown while Woods stands there in the corner conflicted, making clear that Woods wants to help the Bouncers, but feels like he shouldn’t because to do so would go against his mentor’s orders. I think that does a much better job of setting up the dynamic we would see at the PPV where it was the Bouncers vs. Silas and Marseglia, with Woods on commentary cheering for Silas but also showing the Bouncers respect and talking about how he doesn’t like that Silas is working with this creepy Vinny Marseglia.
BARBARO CAVERNARIO vs. RUSH - 6.5/10
Very disappointing, considering the talent involved. You’ve got a main event-level talent who you are pushing as a main eventer, so why are you not letting him wrestle like one? These Rush matches have undermined the majority of his run here in ROH.
CARISTICO, TRITON, & STUKA JR. vs. JAY LETHAL, JEFF COBB, & JONATHAN GRESHAM - 7/10
This was a fine six-man tag action match, but it was also clear that it was just pointless filler on this card that is only happening because they have a bunch of CMLL guys in this weekend.
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH:
Colt Cabana vs. Dalton Castle vs. Marty Scurll vs. Kenny King (w/Amy Rose) - 6.75/10
Kenny King’s face is all wrapped up after his run-in with a camera last night. He claims one of his eyes has been blinded. Colt poked him in the other eye because while he is often funny, Colt can also be kind of a dick. They did a lot of comedy with this throughout the match and I thought it was very funny… but when you have four guys at this level facing off it shouldn’t be a nine-minute match that is 25% comedy! This should have felt like a HUGE match, and been treated that way by both the booker and the wrestlers.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Matt Taven(c) vs. Volador Jr. - 7.75/10
According to ROH’s website, the last time Matt Taven was pinned in a singles match was over a year ago, on August, 2018. You’d think we’d here more about this from the commentary team and from Taven himself, but apparently not. Anyway, the man who pinned him on that night was Volador Jr. Since that time, they became a team in Mexico, but then feuded when Taven thought Volador Jr. cost their team a lucha de apuesta, costing Taven his hair, and they have feuded since then. Hey. Look at that! Someone from another company is getting a title shot… and there’s a logical reason for it! I’d really like to see more of this and less Delirious’ usual cheapening the titles by giving random title shots out to guys who haven’t done anything to earn it and who everyone knows won’t win, thus reducing them to filler. Also of note is that Volador Jr. is currently undefeated in ROH (yes, they’re all tag matches, but at least he has actually won some matches here before getting this title shot).
Ian Riccaboni has his chronology wrong, as he says that Taven and Volador’s history goes “back beyond” Volador Jr. pinning Taven, to them losing the aforementioned apuesta match, when the reality, as I outlined above, is the other way around. Ian does get some credit from me, though, for nothing that Volador Jr. is already booked in a huge match the night of the next scheduled ROH World Title defense and explaining to us what will happen if Volador Jr. wins. This sort of thing makes the possibility of Volador Jr. winning feel a little more real because it shows us that there is a plan in place (both kayfabe and not) to answer an obvious question that would need be asked the moment he won the belt. And, quite frankly, it makes both ROH and CMLL feel more professional because they have actually thought in advance about such things, as opposed to just flying by the seat of their pants all the time.
The match itself was quite great, playing off of how well these two know each other. Taven had the advantage at first and seemed to be countering all of Volador Jr.’s signature moves but Taven eventually got frustrated and gave Volador jr. an opening to take advantage off. Taven was eventually able to regain control by again countering a signature move of Volador Jr.’s, and the finish saw Taven countering one of Volador Jr.’s signature moves into one of this own. Props are due to Ian Riccaboni for pointing out to us that Taven has now again ended someone’s undefeated/unpinned/whatever streak in ROH. He did it to Jeff Cobb at Best in the World 2019, he has done it to Volador Jr. here tonight… and now he goes on to defend his title against the undefeated Rush at Death Before Dishonor XVII at the end of the month. Why can’t the booking always be this good?
LifeBlood (Tracy Williams, Mark Haskins, & Bandido) vs. Villain Enterprises (Flip Gordon, Brody King, & PCO) - 7.75/10
Ian told us that it appeared that Flip Gordon had been kicked out of Villain Enterprises earlier today on something called “Villain Enterprises TV.” If this segment was so important, you should have aired it as a video package before this match! Then, before this match even started, Flip ran out and hit Tracy Williams in the back with a chair, so what was even the point of that whole thing? It’s not like it lulled Lifeblood into a false sense of security or anything because we were never shown them trusting Flip (and they would have been foolish to do so). If Ian hadn’t told me about the segment and I just saw Flip run out and hit Tracy in the back with a chair before the match, I wouldn’t have thought anything was amiss.
This led to Tracy grabbing a mic and challenging Villain Enterprises to let this match be a Street Fight, so they changed the rules.
Everyone worked hard and they did a lot of weapons stuff, but we are well past the point of diminishing returns on these things, both with Villain Enterprises in general and in this feud in particular. Before this match Ian told us that “it will never end between these two groups! They’ve been at each other’s throats for months!” Well… as a I sit here watching this almost four months later, IT’S STILL GOING ON, AND HASN’T MOVED FORWARD ONE BIT!
In the nine shows covering the nine weeks or so since this feud began, we’ve had SIX tag matches in various combinations as well as a singles match, and NOTHING has changed since the moment Flip turned on Lifeblood to start this feud off. In the ten shows since then, they have wrestled in two more singles matches (both Flip vs. Tracy in various weapons matches) and at least one tag team match (could be as high as three if it turns out that Flamita actually is part of LifeBlood as many people have suspected (he seems to only team with them, and always when they need help fighting Villain Enterprises. And STILL nothing has been solved. And on the two cards announced for 2020 so far, we’ve got more of Flamita wrestling Villain Enterprises, including one night where he teams with Bandido.
Meanwhile, Mark Haskins finished up a singles feud with Bully Ray, PCO won the ROH World Title, Tracy Williams has moved into a feud with Tyler Bateman, and a new branch of Los Ingobernables has decided to target Villain Enterprises. This feud feels like it’s over and yet also like it is still somehow dragging on because we never got anything close to a blow-off… or ANY SORT OF MOVEMENT IN ANY DIRECTION WHATSOEVER! The matches have been great, but even while booking great matches, Delirious has somehow managed to feel like he has spent most of the past six months WASTING these fantastic talents.
I like most of these guys and love some of them a hell of a lot. I am someone who watches every single show and has complained about the declining work-rate in ROH. I should not GROAN when I see what is guaranteed to be an awesome match (if it is given the time), but that’s how I have felt about this feud since October. Delirious took these great talents and instead of trying to actually do something interesting with them, he used their talent as a crutch. “This match doesn’t need to do anything for a storyline because it’s just here for the work-rate” is not an acceptable philosophy if you’re booking the same groups against each other over and over again, especially in something that is supposed to be a feud!
And while I’m ragging on Delirious… Ian Riccaboni told that Bandido was “coming off the biggest win of his career against Jay Briscoe” the previous night. Ian’s statement arguably isn’t wrong (and seems pretty dead-on if we limit this to just an ROH context)… and yet here I sit, four months later, and it doesn’t feel like Bandido has gained a damn thing from this “biggest win of his career.” He’s still in the same spot he was before, having random tag matches, usually against Villain Enterprises. You’d think the issues with Adam Page, Cedric Alexander, Lio Rush, and probably a bunch of others that I’m forgetting (including, arguably, Flip Gordon this year as well) would have taught Delirious his lesson but apparently not, so I’ve got to say it again: You can’t just give someone a win, tell us it’s the biggest win of their career and expect us to take them seriously and this new level you want us to see them as being on if you don’t follow up on it after the win by actually treating them like they have reached a new level!
Despite some great action, this was a rather frustrating show from ROH, with many of the biggest problems with the booking on full display. Taven vs. Volador Jr. was definitely great and if you’re not already sick and tired of seeing Villain Enterprises and LifeBlood hit each other with weapons and dive onto each other than you’ll probably enjoy the main event more than I did, but even in that case I just don’t think this show is worth your effort to watch. It’s not bad, but it just feels so pointless.