Rocky Romero is on commentary along with Ian and Caprice. Hopefully he follows the ROH commentary ethos of taking things seriously and condemning cheating, as opposed to his New Japan self.
ROH TV TITLE MATCH:
Kenny King(substituting for Dragon Lee)(c) vs. (w/Amy Rose) vs. Tracy Williams - 5.75/10
We had some good professional wrestling for a while before we got two spots where Amy Rose cheated/helped Kenny King cheat competently and deftly… and then she just threw the title belt into the ring right between Kenny and Tracy and right in front of the referee. We’ve seen this sort of thing all the time where the ref goes to get the weapon and the manager slides the heel a second weapon to use, but this time there was no second weapon. Kenny went to grab the belt, but as he was bending down to do so, Tracy snatched him up for a piledriver and got the win,. This was almost awkward in how blunt it was after what came after, and the fact that Tracy pinned the guy who isn’t the real champion to win the title makes this feel even worse. That’s the sort of thing that while you can tell a story with (I trust hat ROH is doing so here), I don’t really think you should (maybe if you’ve got some big show in the babyface’s home town and you don’t want to disappoint the crowd it’s fine to do it, so long as you have the real champion challenge the babyface as soon as possible afterwards).
MARK BRISCOE vs. FLIP GORDON - 6.5/10
Is it really that hard to not cut away in the middle of the action to show us a stupid f*cking banner? We know what show we’re watching! We want to see that G-d damn wrestling matches that we’ve paid for, not a sign!
This was solid, but disappointing for a PPV. The execution on the finish here was miles better than in the previous match, but if Flip is being built up for a title shot (which he is because he has already earned one and keeps talking about it), he really should win cleanly. This is Ring of Honor. Save your heel finishes for when they’ll really matter.
DALTON CASTLE vs. JOSH WOODS (w/Silas Young) - 7/10
See, THIS is where you save your dirty finish for!
The storytelling in this match was great. There was a bit of “they know each other so well after their first two matches” stuff and a little story about Dalton working over Woods’ back, but the real highlight to me was the way they managed the mood of the match and the ups and downs in tension and frustration (especially on Woods’ part) and made that work with the story of Silas and Woods, making you think there actually was a chance that Woods would give in and use the chair, which made it a bigger moment when he refused. I also thought the fact that Woods followed- and succeeded while using- Silas’ advice when the things Silas told him to do were legal made Silas’ frustration with Woods- and thus the decision to turn on him that stemmed from it- seem a little more raw.
Dalton high-tailed it out of the ring after his tainted win. The follow-up to that should be interesting, as Dalton, in his desperation, had used questionable but legal tactics to defeat Woods in their previous match, so he could be heading down a slippery slope into heeldom here, now happily benefitting from Silas hitting Woods with a chair. Silas cut an excellent promo on Woods after the match, calmly expressing his frustration with the laid-out Woods and letting us know that this feud is now going to start in earnest.
JAY BRISCOE vs. EC III - 7.5/10
Ethan wore actual wrestling gear for the first time in ROH for this match. I thought the storytelling here was great, but I was a little confused by the finish. The story was two-fold. First, there was the working over of the body parts (Ethan’s neck and Jay’s knee). Then there was the idea that Ethan was in Jay’s head. After spending months provoking Jay into brawl’s, Ethan came into this match with a came plan to just wrestle calmly and take advantage of Jay’s anger. He also did things like laugh after Jay hit him to try to get Jay off balance. Jay himself contributed to this by doing things like mutter “this has to be it” after hitting a big move and then showing disbelief when Ethan would kick out. The finish saw a mostly-defeated Ethan offer Jay a handshake from his knees, which Jay used to pull him into a Jay Driller and got the pin. After the match, Jay offered Ethan a handshake (which he has refused to do so far in Ethan’s ROH run) and Ethan accepted. I think the idea was that Ethan was trying to get into Jay’s head with the handshake and make Jay angry enough to make a mistake but Jay didn’t fall for it, and that Ethan had earned Jay’s respect by wrestling cleanly, but the fact that I’m not totally sure is a minor point against this match. It would have been nice to get something from the announcers explaining this.
FLAMITA vs. REY HORUS vs. BANDIDO - 8/10
This match is happening because Flamita had an issue with Bandido during their pre-show challenge for the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles, and Rey Horus took the mic after the match and suggested that they get this issue out of their systems tonight with a match. This bumps us up to nine matches in three hours, which I think was a mistake (and, quite frankly, one Delirious should have learned a long time ago, as he kept over-stuffing his PPVs in 2015-2017, too). ROH has so much time between PPVs that there is no reason this match couldn’t have waited until next week’s TV show.
Flamita wouldn’t shake hands with his teammates before the match. The match was lots of action, but they included the necessary storyline talking whenever Flamita was alone with Bandido, blaming him for losing the titles. At one point Flamita told both of the others that Mexi-Squad was no more, so they teamed up on him for a bit. Bandido pinned Flamita clean. Flamita wouldn’t shake hands after the match, instead walking out on the others with a shove. There were a lot of really cool spots in here, but some of them looked too much like the wrestlers were working together for me to be able to give this any higher of a rating.
Vincent vs. Matt Taven - 6/10
I like that the unsanctioned fight is taking place elsewhere (at the training school/arena where they both started) and we start off with Taven walking in and telling the cameraperson to “film everything.” But that sets up some logical constraints about the camera that they then failed to follow. For example, wow did the cameraperson get from behind Taven going up the stairs to in front of him to see him reaching the top?
There is also no referee. Obviously that works with the “unsanctioned” thing, but it also works against the idea that this can be the blow-off if you don’t have a neutral party to declare a winner.
They had some pretty brutal spots (including Taven throwing Vinny down a flight of stairs, then following him down with a diving elbow drop) and did a good job of making this feel like a realistic brawl, but the non-finish really killed it for me. What happened was that they brawled up to the edge of a balcony and a third guy came and shoved them both off, through some tables. The third guy went to check on both of them, then carried Vinny off. The third guy look like a really sloppily dressed and thicker-bearded Beer City Bruiser (Ian said he “looked familiar” so I assume it has to be someone we already know, and BCB makes the most sense).
This was essentially a “no-contest” in a match type that is supposed to be reserved for big blow-offs, because if the feud has already become so violent that ROH doesn’t want to sanction it, where can you go from there. But instead, we’re going to continue this feud… somehow. This was made even worse by the fact that not only is this a non-finish in a much-hyped match on a PPV, but of the six PPV matches we’ve seen so far tonight, only two haven’t had any sort of shenanigans involved in the finish, and one of those was a match that wasn’t advertised. In other words, the vast majority of the matches that people have paid to see so far have had some sort of screwiness in the finish. PPV is supposed to be the place where you DON’T do that. Where the people pay to get CLEAN resolutions to the issues. One or maybe two is okay if it’s moving a storyline along and isn’t in a big spot on the card, but we’re well past that point already.
JAY LETHAL ASKS TODD SINCLAIR TO NOT ENFORCE THE RULES TO THE LETTER TO PREVENT RUSH FROM CHEAPLY RETAINING THE ROH WORLD THE TITLE VIA DQ - Good. Sinclair promises to use his judgment. Lethal making this request is now the second time in recent weeks where he seems to be willing to compromise “pure” principles for the sake of a greater good (the first being winning the title shot after Taven was distracted by Vita VonStarr).
QUINN MCKAY INTERVIEWS MARIA KANELLIS - I don’t like this, but I understand why they feel they have to do it. Maria has a big announcement to make. Said announcement is that ROH will have a tournament this summer to crown a new Women of Honor Champion. She hereby invites women from all over the world to enter the tournament.
The Allure came out and said mean things to Maria. She said she wasn’t going to be pushed around and that everyone would have to earn opportunities now. Angelina pointed out that she is a seven-time women’s champion, which she thinks is more than enough to earn a shot. Maria said that she would give Angelina a by in the first round of the tournament if Angelina could beat Quinn McKay.
First, let’s deal with the specifics here before going to the bigger picture. This pays off an angle they did on YouTube (which Ian Riccaboni was kind enough to mention to us before the match was announced), and while that’s usually a good thing to do, I think that being a wrestler takes away from Quinn’s character. She is the happy, perky, almost markish babyface interviewer. Essentially, she’s what you would expect to get if ROH held a kayfabe casting call of fans for the host and interviewer job, which makes her an excellent viewpoint character for the audience (I agree that someone like this could easily becoming annoying, but Quinn’s personality allows her to talk that fine line of excitement and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed naivety without going too far and seeming like a cheerleader or someone who pushes the babyface narrative too hard). But if you make her a wrestler, I think it 1) takes away from some of the relatability, but more importantly 2) requires her to lose some of the naivety and excitement about what she is doing that makes the character work.
As for the bigger picture… I completely understand why ROH feels the need to have a women’s division, but the fact of the matter is that they have neither the time nor the talent for it. I was even saying that in early 2019, before AEW introduced another major competitor for talent (and one with better resources) and before the pandemic slowed storyline advancement down by taking away live shows as a place in addition to TV where storylines could be advanced. If ROH wants a women’s division, I think their best option is to partner with an already-established company to function as ROH’s “women’s division” and for whom ROH can function as that company’s “men’s division.” Being the bigger company, ROH would give the other company exposure with big offer matches on certain shows (WrestleMania weekend, maybe one or two other shows), but the idea would be that ROH would not book women’s matches that frequently (at least until they start running live shows) so they can focus on building up their men, who are, on aggregate, a lot more talented than the women because the majority of the talented female wrestlers in the US and Canada are already signed to and happy in WWE, AEW, and TNA (and the situation is something of a vicious circle, as someone is has talent who ROH gets their hands on will be more likely to want to leave ROH for one of those companies that has more opportunities for them (this exact thing happened with Tasha Steelz). Once ROH gets more TV time per week, then they can start worrying about a women’s division.
ROH PURE TITLE MATCH:
Jonathan Gresham(c) vs. Dak Draper - 8/10
There were so many stories being told here. Work on body parts (Gresham’s midsection, Draper’s knee), the size difference, Gresham getting into rope-break trouble early, etc. Great selling, too. I don’t think anyone thought the belt had a chance of changing hands here, but Draper did at least prove himself capable of having a main event-level match.
DELIRIOUS WHISPERS SOMETHING INTO ROCKY ROMERO’S EAR - He spoke in Delirious-speak so Rocky isn’t actually sure what he said, but he thinks it was some sort of challenge. ROH’s TV time is already far too limited. We don’t need to be wasting it on Delirious vs. anyone (and especially not someone like Rocky Romero who isn’t with ROH full-time).
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
La Faccion Ingobernable (Kenny King & Bestia del Ring, substituting for Dragon Lee)(c) (w/Amy Rose) vs. the Foundation (Rhett Titus & Tracy Williams) - 6.25/10
LFI jumped the bell on the Foundation. Stuff happened. Bestia called for Amy Rose to give him the chair, and despite him standing right near her, she shoved it into the ring well past him. That’s twice tonight so it has to be on purpose. Bestia yelled at her, and Rhett Titus… didn’t really seem to have the Full Nelson locked on, but Bestia was stuck for a while and submitted anyway, so now the Foundation have three titles and LFI is down to one.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Kenny keeps Bestia del ring away from Amy Rose, but then starts to yell at her himself. And she deserves it. That’s TWICE tonight that she has failed to give someone a chair in a helpful manner. Either she’s incompetent, in which case she deserves to be yelled at, or she’s doing ti on purpose and betraying them, in which they’re also right to be angry with her.
She flips Kenny off and goes to leave. He apologies to her and they shake hands, but then Kenny pulls her into a spear by Bestia. I’ve been saying since day one that Amy Rose didn’t fit in this faction and added nothing to them, so I’m glad they’ve kicked her out. I just wish they could have found a way to do it that didn’t involve two screwy finish title changes on a PPV.
Speaking of people who don’t fit in their factions, I can’t be the only one who thinks that Rhett Titus seems a lot more like someone who should be in LFI than the Foundation, can I?
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Jay Lethal(c) vs. Rush - 7.5/10
Rush shook hands for the first time in ROH before this match, but then went on to make a mockery of the rules. Lethal worked the knee while Rush worked the head. In the process of working over Lethal’s head, he did all of his usual stuff on the outside, and Sinclair wouldn’t disqualify him because Lethal had asked him not to. Lethal eventually made a comeback and got the Figure-Four but FLI came out and he broke it up to take them out. He went for a Lehtal Injection but Bestia hit him with a chair. Sinclair thought about calling for the bell, but didn’t call for it when he saw the Foundation coming out to take out LFI. Lethal and Rush went for a few more minutes of nearfalls before Rush retained the title.
Rush retaining here was very disheartening for me. Lethal isn’t even my top choice of a guy to put the belt on right now (I’d take the chance on letting Shane Taylor run with it while engaging in a war of words with Pure Champion Jonathan Gresham), but I’m just so tired of this BS with Rush that I’d happily see pretty much any main event or even upper-midcard wrestler on the roster be champion instead of him (Mark Briscoe, Brody King, and PCO being the only exceptions). And it’s not a “good heat” thing where I hate the guy and really want to see him lose the belt. It’s that feeling that we’ll never, ever, get a clean match with him as champion.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. LFI came out to attack Lethal but the Foundation came out to save him. LFI got weapons and were thus able to beat up the babyfaces.
Brody King came out onto the stage and introduced his new faction: Tony Deppen, Chris Dickinson, & Homicide) to even things up in his future matches against Rush. Deppen and Brody were the distraction so Dickinson and Homicide could sneak up on LFI from behind, so these guys are probably the “honor-ambivalent” centrist answer to the “extremes” of LFI and the Foundation that Caprice Coleman had talked about throughout the night. They beat up LFI and stood tall at the end of the show.
This is a fine little group. Brody’s promo here was by far the best I have ever heard him cut, I LOVE Dickinson and think that both he and Deppen fit in perfectly with Homicide and Brody’s intensity, and also feel like guys who like to wrestle honorably, but have very short fuses, which will fit in well in the role I described for this group above. And yeah, Homicide is old, but he’s not as old as you think, given how long he’s been around (he’s only forty-four), and there is always something special about Homicide in ROH.
Despite some great wrestling, I think show was disappointing. I think there were three factors that combined to drag it down. The first was the booking. Out of nine matches on this show, we had six with shenanigans on the finish, including three out of the four title matches, and also including the “unsanctioned” match. We had a f*ck finish in the main event of the previous PPV, and on almost all of the big titles matches that have happened on TV since then. As much as I’ve loved the presentation of ROH since they returned from the pandemic break, the booking continues to disappoint when it’s time for the big payoffs to the stories.
The second problem was time-management. I mentioned this as an issue earlier, and that was before they also spent time on the Women’s Title tournament announcement. An announcement would have been fine, but doing a whole segment with the Allure was a mistake, as was doing the Mexi-Squad on this show instead of on TV next week.
Briscoe vs. EC III and the Pure Title match each went just under twenty-one minutes and Lethal vs. Rush went over eighteen, but other than that, only the Taven vs. Vincent unsanctioned disappointment went more than eleven. The longest match on the freakin’ pre-show went longer than the tag title match on the actual show and the rubber match between former ROH World Champion Dalton Castle and top up-and-comer Josh Woods. The shorter match on the pre-show still went longer than the TV Title match or the Flip Gordon vs. Mark Briscoe grudge match.
The third issue that was, with a few exceptions (Lethal vs. Rush, EC III vs. Jay, Taven vs. Vincent), the show really didn’t feel big. Sure, Dragon Lee’s injury hurt the show, but the whole “Tracy Williams challenging LFI for two titles in one night” thing made each of those individual matches feel smaller, the Pure Title match didn’t feel like a big marquee match, either, and the absence of Shane Taylor- probably the guy ROH has built up the best over the past year or two- hurt the show, as you took a big star off it and put him on the pre-show instead.
The above issues then combined with both the poor time-management to make matches like Briscoe vs. Flip- which could have felt like a PPV match if it got time in the twelve-to-fourteen-minute range- feel like TV matches instead because they went shorter than the matches on the actual TV show pre-show went. Ditto for the TV Title and tag title matches. Then you throw in the booking with all of the dirty or non-conclusive finishes, and this really felt more like a big episode of the TV show than it did a PPV.