KENNY KING vs. JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER - 5/10
The story of this match was Kenny King working over Liger's back. Liger, being Liger, sold it very well. This all culminated in a spot where Liger went down selling his back and was down for well over a full minute, while referee Tod Sinclair was going back and forth between checking on Liger and backing Kenny up. If the guy is that hurt then STOP THE MATCH. If he can't go then you should declare Kenny the winner via referee stoppage, and if he says he can go then you have no reason not to let Kenny go at him!
Think about it: What makes this different from any other time a guy gets hit and sells it big? NOTHING. Or, rather, nothing in kayfabe. The thing that makes this time different is that this time the spot requires everyone to act this way, and if the only reason you have why this time is different is "because that's the spot we want to do" then you need to go back to the drawing board.
Liger eventually gets up and offers Kenny a handshake, which Kenny accepts, and then Kenny pulls Liger in for a big spinebuster and pins him for the win... and everyone is acting like this was some sort of heel moment, but I'm having trouble figuring out what Kenny did wrong. When Liger offered Kenny a handshake I thought that this was a sign that Liger was good to go again (and the only other possibility in my mind was that Liger was about to try to roll Kenny up in a totally heelish manner off of it).
Kenny himself finally has to draw the connection between him showing sympathy for Austin Aries at the previous PPV back in June which led to his defeat, and his decision not to do so here... which I guess makes sense, but it seems to me that it would have made the story a lot more clear (and not spent anywhere near as much time) if this time Kenny had refused to show is opponent any quarter at all, rather than waiting for a bit and then deciding to stop waiting once Liger was back on his feet. After all, it's not like this is the first time we've seen Kenny do something heelish since losing to Aries at BITW, so him taking so much time to decide to show Liger no mercy would be a lot more in-keeping with what we've seen him do on TV recently than waiting for a long period of time would. Also, this still doesn't deal with the fact that the announcers were treating this as if Kenny had done something wrong, when AT WORST in this situation, Kenny is merely "guilty" of not being overly nice, which is not against the rules in any way.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Briscoes(c) vs. The Addiction - 6.75/10
SoCal Uncensored waste time on PPV with their usual "this is the worst town I've ever been to" heel shtick. Why are we wasting time with this, and why are SCU acting like heels when they are about to play the babyface role in their tag title match? And then Scorpio Sky went to the back before the match started for no real reason other than to not have him at ringside when they started doing outside stuff. Speaking of outside stuff, I REALLY hope Daniels didn't hit his head on the apron on that dive. That looked scary as hell.
Ian Riccaboni, being an idiot, tries to tell me that it is "amazing" that the Briscoes are able to isolate Daniels in their half of the ring because Daniels is "a veteran." Please realize that pretty much every single tag team in ROH is made up of two guys who I think just about everyone in the world would consider to be veterans, and in every single tag team match someone- who is therefore pretty always "a veteran" winds up being isolated in the other team's corner... and despite the fact that it happens in just about every match, Ian Riccaboni is trying to insist to me that it is "amazing." F*ck off. This is another fine example of why it's best for an announcer to just call the match rather than trying to come up with ways for every single thing I see to be superlatively impressive: because you inevitably wind up saying dumb sh*t that kills your credibility.
As noted, Daniels was the babyface in peril. We got some action on the floor and a referee distraction and then Kaz got ura-naged onto a chair and he was injured for the rest of the match, leaving Daniels alone even more, with the Briscoes eventually working Daniels' head over, including with a J-Driller on the floor, and then finally one in the ring to put him away. The Kaz injury was a huge miscalculation in my opinion. Firstly, I couldn't escape the thought that if this was a no DQs match, he would have been up soon afterwards, but because this isn't a no DQs match, he was out for what might well have been the entire final third of this more than seventeen-minute match. Secondly, "the heels cheat to take one guy out of the match so his partner must wrestle alone and therefore loses" is a TV finish that was done here on PPV.
ROH WOMEN OF HONOR WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Sumie Sakai(c) vs. Tenille Dashwood - 6.5/10
I don't know what I'm going to do is Sumie doesn't drop the belt tonight. Despite what the announcers keep insisting to me, she does not in any way feel like she is "championship material." In many ways, Sumie is a microcosm of the problem with ROH's philosophy of storytelling nowadays. The announcers keep telling me certain things about Sumie, such as (paraphrasing) "she has a lineage that connects to legends like Jaguar Yakota" "she is part of the foundation of the Women of Honor," "she left everything she knew in Japan behind to come to the US to try to make her name in 2002" and "she was the ironwoman of last year's Global Wars tour." These things all sound very nice, but in no way do they actually prove that Sumie herself is "championship material" as a wrestler. She might have been trained by legendary wrestlers, but that does not mean she herself is anywhere near their level. Her leaving home to come try to make her name in a foreign country means she is brave, not that she is any sort of top-notch wrestler. Ditto with wrestling on early ROH shows. And being the ironwoman of last year's Global Wars tour just means that she was the woman who ROH booked for all four of those shows. It's not like a bunch of women were booked but only Sumie made it through the tour without having to miss a show due to injury. And it doesn't mean she did well, either. She was 2-2. I'm much more impressed by Mandy Leon and Deonna Purrazzo being 2-0.
These are all things that it sounds nice to say about Sumie, but they say nothing about her actual quality as a wrestler and as a champion. For that, our only evidence is her matches, which have been completely lackluster. And it's not like she's been beating top-level names, either. They kept telling us that Tenille has "the best record in 2018" in the division, and yet the women getting the title shots were not Tenille, or someone like Kelly Klein, who went undefeated for well over a year in the Women of Honor division; it was random losers like Jenny Rose and Madison Rayne. It's another fine example of ROH asking us to believe what they tell us without doing the work to make sure that what they tell us matches up with what they are actually showing us.
These two had a pretty good match. Sumie's midsection got worked over and she took a powerbomb to the floor that looked like it hurt like hell. Sumie worked over Tenille's taped-up arm a bit... and then got the submission victory when Tenille passed out in an armbar. WHY!? Emma is a bigger star who will get your promotion more attention, is a better wrestler, is younger, feels a lot more fresh on the indies, and is someone people want to see succeed on the indies after years of being wasted by WWE. Sumie is just... Sumie. She is a relic of ROH's past, and not even a good one. At no point has Sumie Sakai ever been looked at as one of the top female wrestlers in the world, or even in the US. She's not Sara Del Rey or Awesome Kong or Daizee Haze or Nicole Mathews or Cheerleader Melissa or MsChif or LuFisto or even Lacey. She's just Sumie Sakai, a competent undercard babyface with very little personality, and that's what she still is today. WHY THE HELL IS DELIRIOUS SO INSISTENT ON HAVING HER BE THE CHAMPION?!
As I later learned. Emma is injured and needs surgery. Fine. So why didn't they do some angle to set up Kelly Klein replacing her in this match and have Kelly beat Sumie for the belt?
ROH TV TITLE MATCH:
Punishment Martinez(c) vs. Chris Sabin - 6.5/10
Sabin wrote a long and idiotic introduction for himself which Bobby Cruise wasted PPV time reading. This was somehow supposed to be some sort of "mind game" Martinez. How? By boring him to death?
They had a very good match for the pathetically short eight minutes they were given to have their title match. Martinez won.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Martinez set up to break Sabin's face with a chair but Jeff Cobb... slowly waddled down to ringside to make the save. He and Martinez had a stare-down for a bit before Martinez went to leave, but then he grabbed the chair and hit Cobb in the back with it but Cobb no-sold it, then blocked Martinez's kick and laid him out with one of his pointlessly-spinny suplexes. This was good built to a title match between these two, but I don't think their styles will match up very well (Cobb is all about throwing people around while Martinez is big and scary with a lot of his monster factor coming from the fact that he takes a lot of punishment and will be staggered, but rarely ever is forced to leave his feet).
ELIMINATION TAG TEAM TABLES MATCH:
Bully Ray & Silas Young vs. Colt Cabana & Flip Gordon - 6.75/10
During the video package for this (which was excellent, by the way) we got a good clear shot of the WWE logo on Bully Ray's WWE Hall of Fame ring. That seems like a major legal risk, as the WWE Hall of Fame is clearly the "hall of fame" they are using to promote Bully Ray's status in this feud.
When Cabana called for Flip to get the tables, Ian Riccaboni got so excited and was shouting about how it was "insult to injury" and that the method the babyface should take to get revenge on the heels should be to "use all their weapons against them." Caprice Coleman- who, unlike Ian, is not an idiot- then pointed out to Ian that they were getting the tables "because it's the only way to win the match." What on Earth does ROH see in Ian Riccaboni that they haven't dumped him yet? He's not good in any way, he sucks at connecting with the audience or conveying emotions other than excitement in a believable way, he doesn't know the promotion's history, he often says things that don't make sense, and he comes off as pathetically uncool. Are you really going to tell me that they can't find anyone better?
Speaking of Ian, at one point Bully Ray hit Colt Cabana with a chair while shouting "Hey, Ian, you piece of trash!" at Ian repeatedly, so Ian decided it would be a good idea to run down to ringside and check on Cabana while Bully went off to do other things. Bully returned to menace Ian so Flip dove onto him to knock the chair out of his hands. Ian then picked the chair up and handed it to Cabana, then stood by and cheered while Cabana hit Bully with it, looking for all the world like a heel manager.
Bully eventually bumped Ian (lightly), which made me pop because Ian deserved it for sticking his nose where it didn't belong. It's not his match, and nothing illegal was going on, so why did Ian get involved? I don't care if someone was calling him names. He's an announcer who has never wrestled. He's supposed to be a f*cking adult. Bully then powerbombed Cabana through a table and proceeded to rub that fact in Ian's face (and props are due to Caprice Coleman for knowing that it was best to lay out on commentary while all of this was happening so we could hear what was being said).
Ian's involvement and commentary aside, I thought this was very good for what it was, which was a thirteen-minute Tables Match with lots of shenanigans that gave Flip a moral victory while giving the heels a bullsh*t win. I thought the heel finish was done extremely well and in a way that really put Flip over. I usually don't like it when the heels start arguing with each other after a miscue, but Bully Ray and Silas Young are the two perfect guys for it, and they made it extremely entertaining. Bully hit Flip with his chain after the match because apparently someone with a lizard brain felt that just the heel finish was not enough heat, and thus we had to have this as well.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Best Friends, & Rocky Romero) vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page, the Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, & Cody Rhodes) (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 8.25/10
Can someone please tell Cody that giving his wife the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Title to hold while he parades around all happy with the NWA World Heavyweight Title buries the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles (which really, truly, cannot afford to be buried any more than Delirious' haphazard booking already buries them).
Nick Aldis joined the commentary team for this show to hype up his rematch against Cody at the NWA's 70th Anniversary Show. While he was on commentary he not only made just about every single point I did in my All In review about how idiotic the refereeing in his loss to Cody was, but he also did some actual, real, play-by-play in addition to color commentary and showed everyone that he would be a million times better as ROH's lead announcer than Ian Riccaboni is.
At one point Trent cornered Cody but Brandi ran into the ring to get between them while the referee was distracted. Trent gently moved her out of the way, and Cody used this opening to kick Trent in the balls. All that work turning Cody babyface, and now he's right back to having his wife running interference and hitting people below the belt.
Why did it even happen? Just having Cody get his boot up when Trent charged and then hit Trent with a big move would have accomplished the same thing without having one of your babyfaces act like a heel. It's not like this was the beginning of Bullet Club being the heels in this match, as no one did anything heelish from this point until a stupid spot right before the finish when Scurll tried to hit Rocky with his umbrella right in front of the referee.
Bullet Club nail Rocky Romero with a five-person superkick... and then Page picks Rocky up for a powerbomb and Rocky just reverses it. That was f*cking stupid. Then, a few minutes later, we saw Ishii no sell a Disaster Kick but then get floored by a mere two-person superkick. I'll say it again: STUPID. It's just guys going spots to get pops without any thought to how everything looks when you string it together... which is exactly how these Bullet Club guys put their storylines together as well.
He aforementioned stupid stuff aside, this was exactly what you'd expect from a ten-man tag spotfest that goes over twenty minutes. It was exciting, chaotic, and full of high-flying, big-impact stuff. When this match was over, the pairing that really stood out to be was Page vs. Ishii. Based on what we saw here, those two would have a heck of a singles match together.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. On commentary during the match, Aldis announced that his rematch with Cody would be 2 out of 3 falls. Cody stopped by the broadcast position afterwards to insist that he is the one who calls the shots now and not Aldis because he is the champion, but then just accepted those stipulations anyway.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Jay Lethal(c) vs. Will Ospreay - 7/10
The announcers told us that Ospreay negotiated with ROH management before tonight's match (presumably to come in full time if he won the belt) "because we all know what happened the last time ROH had a champion who wasn't under contract: the 'American Nightmare' Cody." Yes, we all do know what happened: it was just business as usual. Cody wasn't refusing to defend the belt and he wasn't threatening to take it to some other company. It was Cody being the champion and defending the belt where he was told to and against whom he was told to, just like any other champion would. The only real difference was that this time the announcers were throwing their hands up in their air and saying "OH NO! THIS IS TERRIBLE! THE CHAMPION ISN'T UINDER CONTRACT!" And when your storyline is that something is different but the only tangible difference from business as usual is the announcers insisting to me that things are different this time, then you have completely failed as a storytelling.
Ospreay refused to follow the Code of Honor and shake Lethal's hand in the beginning. I guess this was done to make him the heel (or at least to make us believe that he was willing to turn heel to win the belt)... which they did follow up on later, but the problem is that in between this spot and the point where Ospreay started to act more heelish, they did a bunch of stuff that made Ospreay look like a huge babyface.
One big mistake they made was a spot where they killed the fast pace they had built up in their excellent opening sequence to turn it into a New Japan heavyweight-style slugfest, which is probably the weakest part of the game for both of these wrestlers. It wasn't bad or anything, but it killed the momentum they had built up and was playing away from their strengths instead of towards them. It was also the chief source of the aforementioned "stuff to make Ospreay look like a big babyface" when they obviously wanted us to believe that he would stoop to using a weapon to win by the end.
This match was disappointing considering the high level of talent involved and the major spot they were in, and all of the missteps, in my opinion, spring from one central mistake: they decided to base so much of this match around a heel turn that almost no one thought was going to come (Ospreay is a top babyface in New Japan, after all), and that even if it did come wouldn't really mean much and that no one thought would lead to a title change, anyway (because Ospreay rarely works for ROH anymore, so even him turning heel in ROH wouldn't matter at all and there was no way they would put the belt on him).
They had Tod Sinclair take forever to check on Bobby Cruise when that is something medical personnel should have been doing after the first few moments. This was done to set up the first tease of Ospreay hitting Lethal with the belt. He chose not to after Lethal gave him a lecture about how using a weapon would not be honorable... and then, a short while later, we get Lethal leaning a ladder up against the barricade with the clear intention of throwing Ospreay into it. And, of course, it all led to nothing in the end.
THIS IS RING OF HONOR. JUST WRESTLE A WORLD TITLE MATCH. The stuff they did along these lines (having counters ready for most of the other's moves, the work on Lethal's head and neck to set up the OsCutter etc.) was all very good. Stick to that. It's a PPV main event world title match in ROH for G-d's sake!
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Very good. Lethal and Ospreay shake hands, then get attacked by T.K. O'Ryan & Vinny Marseglia. Ian Riccaboni chose this moment to insist to us that "MATT TAVEN'S IN MEXICO!" which means that he's actually right here in the arena. Jonathan Gresham came out to try to make the save. He held his own for a few moments but then got taken out due to the numbers game. This gave Lethal the time to recover so that he could fight off the other two but then he got taken out from behind by Matt Taven. Taven then finally revealed his "real world champion" angle belt. Thankfully, this was just a replica of the current ROH World Title but with a purple strap rather than some personalized monstrosity. Taven picked up the real title, held both it and his version up, then threw the real belt down. This was a very good angle to close the show on, but...
The main problem I had with this show was that it felt like a regular ROH "house show" with some TV angles mixed in. You had your big, pointless multi-man tag with Bullet Club plus a world title match where no one expects the belt to change hands because they haven't done sh*t to build to up the challenger and/or he doesn't work for the company which are intended to carry the load in terms of workrate, and then a bunch of TV angles, rather than doing what a PPV is supposed to do, which is deliver in the ring and provide key moments in stories. The Kenny King thing would have been fine if the execution hadn't stunk and I'll give them a pass on the TV Title stuff because 1) they did build Sabin vs. Martinez up relatively well and 2) the benefit of some hindsight shows us that this had to happen the way it did due to reasons you can find out about for yourself if you want to read the spoilers for tomorrow night's tapings and the news reports thereafter. But pretty much everything else was either a TV angle, a match that did nothing for any stories, or both. Even the Tables Match and aftermath I would have been fine with due to it really feeling like it elevated Flip, but on a show full of TV angles it just felt like another "here is a thing we're doing to just elongate the feud" rather than an important chapter in the story.
This show was relatively weak in the ring, didn't feel like a PPV, and the announcing was terrible. All of this needs to be fixed, pronto. Also, someone needs to tell whoever is in charge of ROH's production that telling us all that you are "trending across the US" actually just makes you look smaller than WWE, who are always trending worldwide. The best thing ROH could be doing in terms of social media during their shows is to completely ignore it so they look like a company that is actually paying attention to their wrestling and storylines rather just trying to get people to talk about them or follow them on social media.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Ian Riccaboni- "I don't know if I've ever seen Ishii climb beyond the first rope."
One of Ishii's regular finishers is a top rope brainbuster.
2. After Ishii's dive, Aldis said that Ishii looked like "a flying Japanese bus." Ian Riccaboni then felt the need to try to one-up Aldis by saying "that wasn't a bus! That looked like an airplane!"
A flying airplane. How spectacular. This is the guy Delirious wants to have calling his matches on every show.
3. Ian Riccaboni- "somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity, there was three."
No sh*t, Ian. That's what the word means. What's next? Are you going to tell us that The Addiction are a top-notch two-man duo?
(3.b? The announcers insisted that Lethal always does his signature dive spots in a series of three, but I am 99% certain that it's four.)