Ring of Honor 15th Anniversary PPV Review

Howdy!

This is late; I’ve been on vacation for the last few days and just finished it. Friday, Ring of Honor had a PPV. Let’s see how they did.

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Ring of Honor 15th Anniversary PPV Review

Opening video package looks at the Anniversary shows throughout the years; man, I wish Nigel would have had a run in the WWE as a wrestler. He would have been huge. Anyway, Christopher Daniels appears to talk about another year – the year 1993. We see footage of Daniels from Windy City Wrestling in 1993, his debut year. Check out that 1-2-3 Kid haircut he’s rocking! Adam Cole comes up now, to tell us that 1993 was important to him as well, because that was the year he learned that he learned how to color! ‘Cause he was a kid, you know. 15 years ago, Daniels main-evented the very first ROH show; Cole was just 12 years old! Tonight, Cole kills the career of Christopher Daniels!

We are LIVE from Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, Nevada! Your hosts are Kevin Kelly, Ian Riccaboni, & Colt Cabana.

Kenny King (w/ Caprice Coleman) vs Jay White

Code of Honor is followed. ROH has done almost everything right with Jay White, except get the crowd to care about him. Their loss, as I’ve grown pretty fond of him. Nice little tribute to Honma with the headbutt mid-match from White. I’ll watch any match with King so long as he hits the best spinebuster in wrestling, and he does here. Kenny gets his finish reversed into a small package that gets the pin for White. (Jay White over Kenny King, pinfall, 9:51)

Match Rating: **1/4. The wrestling was fine, just about average, but this wasn’t how I would have opened this PPV, considering the crowd heat for it was pretty much zilch. It reminded me a lot of the Young Lions matches that NJPW uses to open their shows.

Recap of Kaz’s turn, along with him cutting a promo along with the Bucks and Adam Page.

Frankie Kazarian vs Adam Page vs Chris Sabin vs Cheeseburger vs Punisher Martinez vs Silas Young – 6-Man Scramble for a shot at the ROH TV Title

Code of Honor is followed by Cheeseburger and Sabin, ’cause everyone else is a dirty, stinkin’ heel. I normally rather like ROH’s Scrambles, because they can hit each other with the kitchen sink and it doesn’t matter, because someone is always there to make the save. Martinez does an insane tope con hilo onto everyone on the outside, then a springboard senton onto Sabin on the inside. He’s got some work to do, but the potential is there. All 5 guys have to hit moves on him to dump him outside, because he’s big, you see. He comes back later to save Cheeseburger from taking the Rite of Passage from Page on the apron, making him a bigger heel than he already was in my house, and Adam gets chokeslammed onto the apron instead. Even though he’s not on the card, I want to give big props to the dude dressed as KUSHIDA. Good job, man. Sabin hits a top rope release German on Kaz, which was pretty nuts. Cheeseburger and Silas end up doing a really awkward sequence that ends with a ‘Burger palm strike, but Kaz breaks that up and hits the Ace of Spades on Cheeseburger for the pin. (Frankie Kazarian over Cheeseburger, pinfall, 10:16)

Match Rating: **1/2. I’ve seen better. Martinez looked like a star here, getting the big spots and dives, and the match itself never really stopped moving, which is always good for these things. Also, Cheeseburger basically deducts a * by his existence in the match, so there’s that.

Bobby Fish vs Jay Lethal

Code of Honor is followed. This was billed as a ‘top contenders match’, with the unspoken part being that the winner will get a shot at the title later. Feeling-out process to start, then Fish just kicks Lethal out of the ring and to the floor. Later, Lethal goes for a tope, but Fish sidesteps it and Jay goes crashing into the barricade, so Bobby goes to work on Lethal’s chest. Vicious kicks from Bobby drop Lehal, so Jay can do what he does best and sell. Slugfest in the center of the ring as Fish lays in some stiff shots, then drops Lethal on his HEAD on a Saito suplex. Yee-ouch. Fish gets the heel hook, but Jay makes the ropes, Lethal Combination! Lethal Injection is blocked into another heel hook for Fish, Lethal escapes that with a cradle, then ducks a kick and hits the Injection for the win. (Jay Lethal over Bobby Fish, pinfall, 15:09)

MATCH RATING: ***1/2. It was slow and deliberate, but I liked this a lot. It was two good professional wrestlers putting on a match. Wouldn’t set the world on fire or anything, but there were several stiff shots with a nice through-line of Lethal’s chest hurting being a big part of the match psychology. I do hate the Lethal Injection with a passion, so much so that I’d probably be willing to add another 1/2* to almost all of his matches if he would stop using it. It stands out in contrast to the rest of his offense, and not in a good way at all.

The Kingdom (Matt Taven, TK O’Ryan, & Vinny Marseglia) vs Dalton Castle & the Boys

Dalton’s pre-match promo, where he steals part of Quint’s dialogue from Jaws and applies it to his Boys is genius. Castle gets a crazy entrance with 9 or 10 Boys that carry him out. Monster pop for Dalton, as usual. Bitchin’ Kingdom music should be for someone else, says I. Also, I kind of hate Marseglia now. No Code of Honor. This goes as expected, with the early triple team by Castle and the Boys giving way to a heat segment on the Boys by the Kingdom. The Boys switch off to the consternation of Colt Cabana, and it’s hot tag to Castle. Dalton comes in with suplexes for everybody. The Boys and Vinny end up on the outside and TK goes for a moonsault off the second rope, getting some beautiful air and rotation, but he overshoots it and ends up slamming both his shins into the barricade in a stomach-churning spot. He ended up busting his shins and needing surgery; feel free to check out his Twitter feed for stories of the Vegas hospital he does NOT recommend using. Taven and Vinny immediately go home and finish off one of the Boys with the powerbomb while ROH trainers rush out to help TK. That was tough. (The Kingdom over Dalton Castle & The Boys, pinfall, 9:17)

MATCH RATING: **3/4. Might have gone higher if the match had progressed, but they had to go home when they did, which I totally understand. Regardless, that made the ending feel like it had been attached with a rivet gun instead of built to, if that makes any sense. It was trending towards ***+ before the injury, though.

Marty Scurll vs Lio Rush

****. No, not yet. Kidding. Maybe. Either way, this should rock. Scurll gets a great entrance with the crowd solidly behind him. I’ve said this before recently, but it bears repeating – Scurll should be on the shortlist for who gets the ROH World title sometime in 2017, honestly. He’s already bigger than the TV strap. Code of Honor is declined by Marty, who flaps his arms in response. Scurll traps Rush in the apron and hits him with a superkick that knocks the mouthpiece out of his mouth. Back in and Scurll works on the shoulder to set up the chickenwing. They trade the advantage back and forth until Scurll hits 3 superkicks and Rush does a Strong Style hulk-up to pop the crowd and they have a slugfest in the middle of the ring. Rush survives a piledriver from Marty, they trade tombstone attempts and Lio goes for his own chickenwing on Marty! Scurll escapes that, but Lio keeps on the pressure and gets Rush Hour for two, then a frog splash for two. He sets up for a Rush Hour off the top and to the floor, but Scurll escapes and hits the Tower of London on Lio, breaks Rush’s fingers, then rips off the shoulder tape and puts on the chickenwing for the tapout to end a hell of a match. (Marty Scurll over Lio Rush, submission, 18:37)

MATCH RATING: ****1/2. Scurll is just on another level right now, as his natural charisma comes through so well in his ringwork, and that’s not a small compliment; too often, you see guys who are great in-ring but have little charisma at all (Roderick Strong, front and center if you please!) or you see the opposite, a guy who’s all style and little substance (Miz, looking at you over here). Scurll is the complete package, a guy who understands how to use his ringwork to let the character ooze forth, while still being a hell of a worker that understands what makes a great wrestling match. Rush is obviously a heck of a talent as well, and this match was a dandy, good back and forth action that could have gone either way, but more to the point, they built a good story in the ringwork, with Rush getting the big dives and babyface moves, while Scurll did most of the playing to the crowd and cheating, which is exactly what they should have done. I can barely find a thing I would have done differently in this match.

Crowd chants for Marty at the end of the match. Seriously, World title.

Announcers go over the article from USA Today about ROH, headline: “Ring of Honor proud to not be WWE.”

The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) & Bully Ray vs War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) & Davey Boy Smith Jr. – 6-Man Tag Team match

The original match here was The Briscoes vs The Killer Elite Squad, but Lance Archer is out for six months with surgery, so Smith ends up tagging with War Machine here instead. To their credit, the announcers do indeed remind us that Smith & War Machine don’t get along, as War Machine is at odds with Suzuki-Gun in NJPW. No Code of Honor, as the Briscoes and Bully Ray attack before the bell. Davey Boy gets a double Northern Lights suplex on both Briscoes in a neat spot, then gets some work in the middle of the match including a Liontamer on Mark. They end up with Jay at their mercy but can’t decide who gets to finish, as Rowe and Smith keep tagging in on each other, and Jay hits a lariat to get enough room for a hot tag to Bully. He beats down Smith as the whole thing breaks down, and miscommunication has Rowe hit SHOTGUN KNEES~! onto Smith by accident, then turn around and take a triple 3-D to eat the pinfall. (Bully Ray & The Briscoes over War Machine & Davey Boy Smith Jr, pinfall, 11:51)

MATCH RATING: ***1/2. I like both main tag teams here, with War Machine having seriously grown on me more and more recently. Bully fit in well with the Briscoes, and at least we ended with dissension amongst Smith and War Machine, because really it would have made little sense for that team to get along. Match itself was a complete trainwreck that built to familiar spots along the way, most of them pretty welcomed by the crowd on the Bully Ray nostalgia train. I’m a sucker, what can I say? I liked it, probably due to my aforementioned enjoyment of both the Briscoes and War Machine, while everyone else in the match did their jobs with aplomb.

Security comes out to separate War Machine & Smith, who get into it on the outside.

The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta) vs The Hardys (c) (Matt & Jeff Hardy) – Las Vegas Street Fight for the Ring of Honor World tag team titles

The Hardys won the straps from the Bucks at Manhattan Mayhem to set this up. Of course, because TNA is really just the FUCKING WORST, they don’t do much of anything to reference the ‘Broken’ gimmick, which is really just about the only interesting thing that the Hardys have left. Like I’ve said before, I’m over it, but at least I’ll grant that it was different, so now they’re just Matt and Jeff Hardy in 2017, and that doesn’t bode well. On the other hand, I love me some Roppongi Vice, and the Bucks traditionally do very well in matches where there aren’t any rules, because most of their act that I find tiresome goes away when we lose the rules to a match. Anyway, Vice attacks with trash cans to start the match off, just to set the vibe for this one. Jeff Hardy is just so bad, you guys. I mean, he’s practically unwatchable, but luckily he stays out of a lot of this one. Trent Baretta gets powerbombed onto the entranceway in cringe-inducing spot, especially after he wiped out at WK 11 on that dive. Don’t worry, it’ll get worse for poor Baretta later. The Hardys bring a ladder in and it gets used in horrible ways, along with the trash can from earlier as everyone goes down after Matt hits a crucifix bomb on Matt Jackson that Nick Jackson promptly stops a pinfall on with a superkick. Trent takes another nutty bump, getting tripped off the top rope and being sent by the back of his head to the ladder, and he’s STILL not done. More carnage ensues before Jeff hits the knees on a Swanton attempt, and now everyone is down except for Rocky Romero, who goes out and gets his very own sleeve that has thumbtacks all over it. Oh, my. Forever Clotheslines with the spiked sleeve on the Bucks and the Hardys, Strong Zero hits for Roppongi! That gets two before the save, and now Baretta goes out and gets a bag of thumbtacks, so my sympathy is limited for the poor bastard on this one. He tries for a superplex on Nick to the tacks, but Matt Jackson makes the save and Nick comes off the top with a bulldog on Baretta, sending him face-first to the tacks. OuchOuchOuchOuchOuch. And yet, Trent is STILL NOT DONE, as the Bucks superkick everyone and Matt Jackson FILLS TRENT’S MOUTH WITH TACKS, then Nick SUPERKICKS TRENT IN THE MOUTH. Dear GOD. Romero saves it, but takes the Meltzer Driver onto the tacks and that forces the Hardys to save this time, and we’re back to Bucks/Hardys. Jeff gets a ladder and Matt gets a table, which is missing one of its legs. The Bucks fight back but the Hardys toss them and grab Baretta (OF FUCKING COURSE) and Jeff dives through him off the top of the ladder to get the pin as the Hardys retain. (The Hardys over Roppongi Vice & The Young Bucks, pinfall, 17:14)

MATCH RATING: ?????. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but this wasn’t even a wrestling match in the loosest sense of the word, so I’m at a loss as to how to rate this. There was a ton of violence, sure, and the thumbtack spots were cringeworthy, along with the continued destruction of poor Trent Baretta, who just got killed out there. I mean, when ROH says they have the ‘best wrestling in the world’, is this something that you want to be proud of as ‘wrestling’?

I mean the last comment sincerely. I genuinely have to ask an honest question here, and it’s something that I haven’t asked since ECW, but it’s relevant, which is: how does this fit in with the art form that I love? There wasn’t anything in this match that required more than the ability to fall off a ladder or learn to take a bump. There was no cohesive story running through the match outside of the very beginning, where Vice hit the teams with trash cans because they were being ignored. What about this was ‘wrestling’? What about this really made you think that these were trained athletes and workers out there that were doing something that no one else in the world could do?

The Bucks have done this type of match before and done it very well – the 3-team Ladder War just last year was superior to this in almost every respect, with a clear thru-line to follow with the Addiction trying to hang onto the belts and the Bucks itching to reclaim what they felt was truly theirs. I got none of that from this match. Really, it was just a collection of moves where guys rotated in and out while taking big bumps, but there wasn’t any cohesion or story to what was happening. It was just sort of there. My dislike of the match really didn’t have anything to do with the Bucks at all, as they hit their stuff and had the timing of the match down well enough to hold it together.

As for the match rating, I guess in the context of a spotfest and considering the bumps that guys like Baretta took out there to make the match look good, I guess it’s ****, ****1/4, something like that. So if you dig this type of match, it’s on the good side. For me? **, and that’s about all I can muster for it.

I hope that all of you watch it and disagree with me, because on this point, I’d like someone to show me that I’m wrong, completely wrong, dead wrong. Not that you can change someone’s preference, but please (and there’s no arrogance here, I mean it very sincerely) explain to me why you liked this match so much, if indeed you did. Please.

Post-match, the Hardys take the Bucks’ Superkick Party titles with them. Sure, why not?

Daniels cuts a promo before the main event that is so completely over the top, so showy, so in-your-face snotblowingly weepingly terrible, that it almost turns me against him. But the leadup to this match has been so good, I’ll forgive one bad promo. Cabana rightfully mocks him when we return live.

“The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels vs Adam Cole (c) – Ring of Honor World title match

And it all comes down to this. Crowd is actually torn here, which is a testament to how good the booking is that they’ve finally found someone that gets cheered against Cole. Code of Honor is followed, with the announcers sure to note that on the very first show, Daniels was the first one to REFUSE the Code of Honor. Also of note – this is Daniels first title shot since 2011 against Eddie Edwards, and his career record in ROH title matches is 0-8-1, with the draw being a 60 minute time limit broadway against Bryan Danielson. Cole shows off to start, as he’s quicker and stronger, but he behaves like just enough of an asshole to maintain his heel status. Adam dominates, but gets tossed to the floor where Daniels hits a split-legged moonsault. Cole comes back and superkicks him into the post, and Chris taps an artery for some color. Back in, Cole drapes Daniels across the ring ropes and wipes Daniels’ blood across his chest. Cole methodically beats Daniels down and acts like an arrogant shit the whole time, and Chris mounts a comeback and hooks the Koji Clutch. Cole breaks that and goes back on offense, basically cutting a promo on Daniels mid-match and telling him that after he’s done wrecking his career, maybe he’ll head to the Daniels home and wreck his wife, too! Does this inspire a big ol’ babyface comeback? You betcha! Daniels wins a slugfest and hits an STO, continuing to beat on Cole until he misses the Best Moonsault Ever and Cole hits a superkick. The fireman’s carry version of the Last Shot gets two for Cole. Angel’s Wings is reversed to a ‘rana by Cole, but both guys clothesline each other and go down. Adam tries for the Panama Sunrise, Daniels blocks that so Cole hits his own Angel’s Wings instead for two. Daniels repays him a minute later with a Last Shot. They trade holds and Daniels blows the roof off the joint by hitting a Styles Clash on Cole for two. The ref gets bumped off a Cole superkick, Cole goes low and rolls Daniels up for the visual pinfall, but there’s no ref. Annnndddd……cue Frankie. Kaz runs down and Cole gets the belt, Frankie wants to do it instead, so Cole gives him the belt. Kaz looks to hit Chris, but tosses the belt to the floor and rips off his Bullet Club shirt instead, because he was team Daniels all along. He gives Cole the finger and goes to the floor, and Adam turns around and sees a smiling Daniels. Chris gives him the Bullet Club sign, hits him with a uranage, and goes to the corner. Best. Moonsault. Ever! BEST. Moonsault. EVER! for a second time! BEST. MOONSAULT. EVER! hits a third time! The ref is back in, 1, 2…..3! Christopher Daniels is finally a World champion! (Christopher Daniels over Adam Cole, pinfall, 21:52)

MATCH RATING: ***3/4. They told a good story and they told it well, which was all I wanted out there, as Cole played up the age difference and was a complete asshole the entire match, allowing Daniels to make perfectly-timed babyface comebacks and really play the crowd like a fiddle, as even after it was 50/50 most of the way, they popped huge for Chris’ win. This match was really good professional wrestling storytelling, and they structured the match phenomenally well. It’s not going to win MOTY or anything, but that’s okay – it was the match that was needed to end what had been built up. Now let the ‘Adam Cole is out the door’ speculation begin again.

Post-match, the locker room empties as the roster celebrates with Daniels, which is kind of a bit much, considering that up until the Decade of Excellence tournament he had been kind of a shit to most of the babyfaces we see out there. Still, it’s a hell of a moment to see Daniels get a World title around his waist after 23 years, and I’m glad I was able to witness it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was an awesome PPV, to be honest. Nothing was actively bad here, depending on your mileage when it comes to the tag title match, and the big matches all delivered at 3.5 or better, which is pretty great. Matches all got time to breathe and let the wrestlers work, and the Scurll/Rush match was a special joy to check out. As usual, ROH brings the goods again on PPV.

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter