QUINN MCKAY EXPLAINS HOW SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST WILL WORK THIS YEAR- It will take place over several weeks, with the qualifiers both on TV and on the weekly YouTube show. Everyone involved 1) has never held the ROH World Title, and 2) isn’t ranked in the world title rankings. They’re doing this “win this thing and get a quick in to the rankings/skip the rankings and get a title shot” gimmick WAY too often. It makes the rankings feel irrelevant.
As for the “hasn’t held the world title before” part, I support the desire to make new stars and I like having an explanation for why obvious top names like Jay Lethal and Jay Briscoe aren’t in this tournament, but this hurts the tournament by removing some major star-power from it, and this problem is compounded by also excluding people in the title rankings. The theory behind making a star via a tournament is that this wrestler has presumably beaten top stars on his/her way to winning it- or, at the very least, has beaten other people on winning streaks. With the SOTF format, the star-power is even more important, because it’s just a qualifier and then a big final, so the “winning streak” things isn’t there and someone can easily wind up in the finals via a fluke win.
Look at the field: Bandido, Rey Horus, Flamita, Bateman, Rhett, Danhausen, Sledge, Dak Draper, Eli Isom, Brian Johnson, Chris Dickinson, and… someone named “Edwards” who I don’t even know who it is. With a full roster available for the tournament, Bandido is the only guy who feels like he’d be a lock to make it out of the first round. Dickinson, Horus, Flamita, and maybe Bateman feel like they’re at that level where maybe one of them would be allowed to make the finals to give them a little thing to hang their hat on but well know they’re going out first or second. And other than Rhett and maybe Isom or Draper, the rest of them don’t feel like they’d even be given a qualifier. Does winning SOTF really mean anything when you didn’t have to go through anyone even close to the level of Jay Lethal or Jay Briscoe or Brody King or Dragon Lee or Shane Taylor or Matt Taven or Dalton Castle to do it? Hell, the winner this year won’t even have to go through someone at the level of Mark Briscoe or Kenny King or Tracy Williams to get it!
REY HORUS VS. DEMONIC FLAMITA VIDEO PACKAGE- fine
Flamita is going by “Demonic Flamita” now, apparently. That’s kind of silly. Also, it’s the kind of change that shouldn’t be announced off-screen. Or at least we should be told about it and he should cut a promo explaining it to us before we see it in a graphic.
Flamita gave us an okay explanation of his name change (it really just amounts to “I’m a heel now,” but he phrased it well). Rey Horus was okay.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST QUALIFYING MATCH: Demonic Flamita vs. Rey Horus- 4.5/10
Flamita is going the whole way with this “demonic” thing. A hand reaching up out of the grave in his video, black cultic robes with a red goat-head that also makes a pentagram on the back. That kind of thing. I could do without the CGI flying winged skeleton thing in the video, though. Bobby Cruise still introduced him as just “Flamita,” so I guess he hasn’t gotten the message yet.
Flamita started off seeming willing to play by the rules against his own friend, but it was just to lull him into a false sense of security. When Flamita got the advantage, he hit Horus with a chair right in front of the referee but it wasn’t a DQ. What’s that you say, Ian? It’s a “big match?” Well in that case, shouldn’t it be even more important that we ensure that the rules are followed and someone doesn’t cheat to win? You absolutely cannot due crap like this while portraying yourself as the company with strict enforcement of the rules!
The match was spotty and slow, but not slow in the good way where it feels like they’re selling. Here it didn’t feel like they had taken anywhere near enough damage that going that slow could be construed as selling. It just felt like they were taking a long time between moves. Throw in the frustrating unpunished chairshot, and you’ve got quite a disappointing opener.
Ian explained the way SOTF would interact with the rankings as being that the person who wins SOTF would automatically be in the top three (i.e. eligible for a title shot) until he got his title shot. I think that’s absolutely the wrong way to do this sort of thing. If you’re going to have rankings and rules limiting who can get a title shot, I think the best way to do is to have certain big matches- not too many, but maybe one every four to six months, plus an established big annual thing like Survival of the Fittest- be an exception that allows you to ignore those rules. What ROH is doing here essentially results in one of the top spots being clogged up until the SOTF winner gets his title shot, reducing the number of people who can feel like they have particularly hot world title chases at any given time.
BRIAN JOHNSON VS. SLEDGE VIDEO PACKAGE- bad
Sledge’s promo was decent. He came off as someone who was yelling more for the sake of yelling. Brian Johnson did a lot of that, too. He usually does, but this time it finally hit me why I find him so grating. He’s cutting Dolph Ziggler promos… except that at least in Dolph’s case he was actually a successful wrestler for a while. Brian Johnson has never been anybody and doesn’t even come off like a talented guy whose talents aren’t being utilized well. He’s just a generic dude whose gimmick that he’s loud, and delusional about his value to the point of being a goof. Neither of these guys came off as someone I want to see at all, and the fact that one of them will be making it the finals of Survival of the Fittest is insane. Every second spent on guys like Johnson and Sledge instead of Bandido and Shane Taylor and Fred Yehi and Wheeler YUTA and Dak Draper is a tragic waste.
SILAS YOUNG PROMO- good heel stuff
JOSH WOODS PROMO- fine
PURE RULES MATCH: Silas Young vs. Josh Woods- 8/10
Bobby Cruise announced this match as having a thirty-minute time-limit. I’m really hoping that this a change to the Pure Rules rather than Bobby screwing up, both because a screw-up should have been edited out, and because these Pure Rules matches often feel like they need more time to develop their stories than the fifteen minutes maximum they have been allowed. Ian said there was a “special thirty-minute time-limit for this match,” which sounds like it’s just for this match, but he said it at the end of explaining the Pure Rules, so it’s possible that to read it as all Pure Rules matches having thirty-minute time-limits, too.
This was an awesome wrestling match that just happened to be held under Pure Rules (rather than focusing on those rules as the basis of the story). They had some good spots playing into the finish of their previous match, and built very well from beginning to end. Woods won clean, and, shockingly, Silas shook his hand after the match.
This was a very good episode of ROH, almost entirely on the strength of the main event. Booking-wise, I’m once again quickly losing confidence in Delirious.
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