Ring of Honor is running two events in Japan this weekend as part of their NJPW talent exchange; NJPW will in turn be sending their roster over to the US next week for the ROH 14th Anniversary Show. This is Night 1 of Honor Rising.
Before we begin, let me make something clear up front – while I know quite a bit about ROH, my knowledge about NJPW is much, much more limited. I’m sure I’ll be using Google quite a bit tonight. I’m also sure I’ll get some stuff wrong regardless, and I assume that Ioan or Dock will correct me in the comments, which is welcomed, guys. I’m just a fan tonight, albeit one who is a complete mark for the NJPW Junior style, so if my ratings are a little biased towards that, I’ll own it up front.
I’m following Ioan’s format tonight, not mine – no 3 paragraph match recaps, show is just too long for that. I can feel your disappointment from here.
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Dalton Castle and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jushin Thunder Liger and Matt Sydal
In a funny bit, Taguchi has his own peacock wings, looking like a dragon. He even does the Castle walk before the match starts. Total comedy match, with Liger doing poses with the Boys and Taguchi’s ass apparently being made of steel. Seriously, the mid-sequence all involved him either doing moves with his ass with Liger and Sydal selling it, or posing with Castle. Castle goes for a bangarang, but Sydal gets out and gets a high kick and a reverse rana, followed by a Shooting Star Press for the pin. Great fun, and Castle fit in much better than I thought he would. Crowd adored it. **
Delirious vs. Gedo
Delirious and Gedo are, of course, the head bookers for both respective feds. Delirious runs all over the ring to stall for a few minutes, then complains that Gedo pulled his hair; he tries to pull Gedo’s, but there’s nothing there. Delirious plays heel with scratching, biting and choking. Gedo puts on a figure-four and Delirious calls for Cheeseburger to help, which is pretty funny. Gedo’s frequent cursing is also pretty funny, as the man works either ‘shit!’ or ‘fuck!’ into almost every sequence at some point. They do a few decent but unmemorable sequences and Delirious rolls him up with a crucifix for the pin. Meh. *, mostly for the funny parts.
Frankie Kazarian vs. Kushida
This was apparently supposed to be Adam Cole against Kushida, but Cole didn’t make the trip for family reasons and Kazarian got the spot instead. I’m a total mark for Kushida, so I might not be objective here. They play up the size difference early, with Frankie winning on strength and Kushida winning when they go to the mat. Kaz pokes him in the eye and gets a springboard DDT to take over for awhile, with Kushida doing his usual great selljob. Dude is a great sympathetic babyface. He makes his comeback and counters a top rope C4 attempt, taking Kazarian down with the arm. Hoverboard Lock finishes. They didn’t mesh very well, at least in my opinion, but Kushida is good for at least *** these days, even in an off match. ***
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Cody Hall, Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, Moose and Tomoaki Honma
Next week at the 14th, Elgin and Tanahashi are set to face off against the Briscoes, while Moose is facing Okada. Moose gets the crowd to do his hand motion, and is about 11 feet taller than everyone else on his team. Funny bit to start as Tanahashi starts doing Moose’s chant, and the crowd now wants Moose, who is only too happy to oblige. The faces clear the ring early after a big brawl, but Yujiro pulls Tanahashi outside the ring and hits him with a chair to regain control for Bullet Club. Cody Hall moves really well for a big man; I hadn’t seen much of him until recently. Bullet Club cuts the ring in half and Tanahashi is face in peril for awhile, but he finally tags in Elgin, who tosses everyone around and gets a double suplex on Cody and Yujiro. Elgin gets low-blowed, but hot tags Moose, who makes a go of it before getting quad-teamed by the Bullet Club. He kicks out of a Cody Hall chokeslam, however, and the faces return and clean house allowing Moose to win with a spear on Hall. Fine stuff, if average, but Moose definitely needs to keep getting experience on this level, as he looked lost in a few spots out there. Especially since he’s facing Okada in a week in Vegas. Crowd was completely into Moose the whole time, however, so that’s something. **3/4
Intermission time! Smoke break for me time.
Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) vs. Bobby Fish, Katsuyori Shibata and Kyle O’Reilly
This match should hopefully rule the earth. Omega is coming off one of the best matches of 2016 so far against Tanahashi (seriously, watch it!). O’Reilly faces off against Adam Cole and Jay Lethal next week for the ROH World title, while Bobby Fish takes on Roderick Strong for the TV belt. Omega will team with the Bucks against ACH, Sydal, and Kushida at that same event. Shibata and Omega immediately fight outside the ring through the barricade, with the Bucks and reDRagon hooking it up inside. reDRagon gets armbars on both Bucks; Omega tries to save, but Shibata is right behind him and puts him in an armbar as well. Bullet Club gets control and Omega hits a nice no-hands plancha onto Fish and O’Reilly. Dual tags give us Omega and Shibata for a nice series. Omega cheats like nuts so Shibata gets tons of heat for his comeback. The heels get a triple superkick on Shibata but Fish saves it. Kyle does an awesome double dragon-screw on both Bucks, but Omega blocks a tornado DDT with a throw. Heel miscommunication as Omega gets superkicked and Kyle O’Reilly just goes to town on both Bucks and reverses Omega’s finisher into a rear-naked choke, looking like a world-beater. Man, I love me some Kyle O’Reilly, and that whole series of moves was so well-done. O’Reilly keeps the choke on, but the Bucks spray him with deodorant and an Indytaker + a One-Winged Angel are good for the pin. O’Reilly and Shibata both looked great here, with both of them getting the chance to take out the heels by themselves while the Bullet Club had to cheat to beat them. A fun, fun 6-man tag match. ***1/2
Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) vs. The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe)
As stated before, the Briscoes take on Elgin/Tanahashi next week. This may be interesting as we’re probably near the end of Doc and Karl’s time in NJPW if the WWE stories are correct. This is also the only match with zero Japanese wrestlers on the card. Big brawl to start, Mark gets his blockbuster on the floor, yee-ouch. He landed hard. The Briscoes dominate until Gallows pulls Mark out and they double-team him. Gallows lays in with stiff shots on Mark as the Bullet Club cut the ring in half and work him over. Mark finally gets a tag and Jay gets a Death Valley Driver on Gallows. Bullet Club takes over again and we get a couple of trade-offs as it breaks down with everyone’s finishers being blocked until Jay gets the machine gun neckbreaker on Anderson, followed by a Mark froggy-bow for the pin. Nothing here you can’t see almost weekly on ROH TV, as they worked a very standard North American tag match. Fun to watch and everything, but nothing exciting. **3/4
Chaos (Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi) vs. Jay Lethal and Tetsuya Naito
Okada takes on Moose next week, while Lethal defends the ROH title against O’Reilly and Adam Cole. Heh, Truth Martini has a Japanese version of the Book of Truth. Lethal and Naito have issues to start, with Jay reminding Naito that they’re a team! The two World champs (Lethal and Okada) start out, with the crowd solidly behind Lethal. They do a cool opening sequence that makes me want to see them one on one. Naito tags in after much prompting by Jay, and immediately stalls for awhile. Lethal comes back in takes over on Yoshi, as Lethal and Naito are openly hostile to each other tagging in and out. Alright Dock or Ioan, what is Naito’s deal? Is he just a dick or what? Yoshi finally gets a hot tag to Okada, who runs wild on Naito and Lethal until Naito puts a stop to that with a tornado DDT. Heel miscommunication rears its ugly head again, though, as Lethal ends up superkicking Naito on accident. Top rope blockbuster on Lethal by Yoshi, but Naito saves. Yoshi looks to finish, but gets pushed off the top rope by Evil after kicking away Truth Martini and Lethal gets the Lethal Injection for the pin. This was a decent tag match, but the finish sucked and I would have rather just watched Okada/Lethal, to be honest. Not bad, not great. **3/4
Lethal and Naito have a fun interaction after the match as Naito shakes Lethal’s hand and gives him his cap, so Lethal gives Naito the Book of Truth. Naito’s face was hilarious here.
Roderick Strong (c) vs. Tomohiro Ishii – ROH World TV Title Match
Strong is set to defend the TV title against Bobby Fish next week, while Ishii is set to take on Hirooki Goto and is probably just thinking about who he’s going to murder in cold blood next week. Seriously, that match against Shibata at WrestleKingdom 10 was one of the stiffest I’ve ever seen. I don’t always love Strong, to be honest, but he’s a very, very good worker, so let’s see how this plays. Roddy taunts Ishii with the belt before taking a lap around the ring with it; why in God’s name would you taunt Ishii? Did you HEAR those shots at WK10? Jesus, Roddy. Strong staaalllssss in the beginning. But once Ishii gets his hands on him, he just beats the holy hell out of Roddy. Strong looks to take a walk, but suckers Ishii in and slams him on the ring apron to take over. Strong beats him down methodically for awhile until Ishii stops him with a powerslam. He turns Strong’s chest into hamburger with chops in the corner (seriously, fucking OUCH) and gets a backdrop driver. Strong is actually bleeding from the chest after that abuse. Strong breaks out of a power bomb attempt to regain the advantage, but can’t put Ishii away. They fight out to the apron and Strong gets a belly-to-back suplex from the apron to the floor, which was cool. That only gets two, because Ishii is not human.Strong brings the chops, but Ishii no-sells them and levels Roddy with a forearm. He puts Roddy on the top rope and gets a delayed superplex, which was most certainly awesome. Desperation jumping knee from Strong to try to slow Ishii down. Did Ishii ever fight Lesnar? Because that might be too much man for the universe to handle all in one ring. Roddy gets the Sick Kick, but that only gets two. Roddy looks to finish with another knee, but Ishii just KILLS him with a lariat. Roddy tries to fight back with elbows and knees, but he’s got nothing left; Ishii puts a stop to that with a headbutt and a seated clothesline, and Strong barely kicks out. Ishii loads him up and gets a brainbuster…for the pin? Holy SHIT. I never would have predicted that one. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a NEW ROH World TV champion! Match was very good, stiff as shit and probably best of the night. ***3/4
Final thoughts for the evening: I really had no clue they would change the TV title with a week to go before the 14th Anniversary show. Ishii and Strong are scheduled to hook it up in a 6-man tag tomorrow night, but I don’t see how they get the belt back to Strong right now. I suppose this makes Ishii/Goto a title match at the 14th? I have no idea.
Anyway, this was a decent little show, but left something to be desired. Nothing broke ****, at least by my estimation and some of the pairings were a little odd to say the least (Why not put Okada against Lethal in a non-title ‘who’s the best in the world’ singles match, for instance). I enjoyed it, per se, in that nothing on the show was actively bad besides Gedo/Delirious, which was meant to be that way insomuch as it was a comedy match; at the same time, nothing blew me away. Mildly recommended show.
I’ll be back with Night 2 probably Sunday, as I have a long night at work ahead of me, so I probably won’t catch the show until Saturday. I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you then.
Thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter