ROH: 14th Anniversary Review/Recap

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ROH finds themselves in an interesting spot coming into 2016. Things aren’t exactly booming, but things aren’t really heading into the dumps. Perhaps that’s a bit too unkind, the show and promotion is doing well, trending up, but it isn’t filled with a mass of huge angles that draw attention or super big stars that are captivating the world, when rather the wrestling world seems pretty neutral on the product that ROH is coming out with. It’s still really good, and pound for pound better wrestling than a lot of what you’ll be able to see on your TV screen. With the emergence and mainstream wrestling popularity of NXT over the “indie” brand and with others such as Lucha Underground with a fresh perspective on the business along with various indie indie (like, really indie) companies like PWG and EVOLVE, there’s certainly a lot of GOOD wrestling out there than ever before, making ROH fade into the background.

ROH has a ton of good wrestlers, potential stars and people behind the scenes to make not only a great show, but something that sticks out and becomes “must watch” to wrestling fans who already have so much content at their fingertips to watch.

The company runs a risk a lot of the time as still feeling like just a breeding ground for when their stars get super red hot and over that they’ll eventually get signed or poached away by WWE. That doesn’t have to be the case, especially if they make it a premium to push and foster the talent they have now, who have massive potential to build the company as this destination for top-tier wrestling where their characters make up the brand. They definitely took a step in the right direction locking down the Young Bucks last year and then at the end of the year re-upping Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly (who are a fantastic tag team, but seem destined for more singles pushes this year) and Jay Lethal who continues to kill it in the ring and on promos as the ROH World Champion. Adam Cole is another guy who seems to have unlimited potential, and thus is always linked to going to WWE, but with the right handling of him the guy could be a star in ROH and the guy to headline the brand in the coming years.

Tomohiro Ishii Defeated Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish to retain the ROH World Television Championship:

This was the match that came out of nowhere and largely thrown together after Ishii won the ROH TV title. I was very much looking forward to the Roddy/Bobby rematch after them having a pretty great match at Final Battle, and I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get it here since this match wasn’t very great and the story the two men had coming in was pretty good, only to get swept aside now that Ishii was involved.

Granted, it’s kinda cool that Roddy lost the belt at the joint ROH/NJPW show a wee before it was to be defended, since that never really happens and gives that shock value since you always assume once a guy is booked to defend his title at a big event, he won’t lose it between then, but not when you face someone like Ishii.

So, yeah, this match wasn’t bad per se, but definitely underwhelming especially when you have the talents of all three guys, especially ones who can crash and bang. Ishii’s style and first time in an ROH ring might’ve thrown a bit of a kink in it, but either way it wasn’t anything special, and didn’t even get much time to build until it was over pretty fast.

I thought that Ishii would give up the title with Roddy pinning Bobby or something like that where Ishii avoids the pinfall, but I guess they’re sticking it with Ishii and I guess the TV title won’t be a thing going forward on the ROH tapings, since I doubt they’ll do much if at all with it at the TV tapings. I don’t know what this means for Roddy/Bobby and I guess we won’t see Ishii defending the belt until Global Wars in May.

B.J. Whitmer Defeated Adam Page:

This was really the only match on the card I could not have cared less for. I pretty much tune out any and all Whitmer/Page stuff on the weekly TV shows as it doesn’t do anything for me promo-wise or wanting to see these guys go at it in the ring. The only thing I will say is that Whitmer is a pretty good heel and great at actually attracting heat, but even still I find it hard to care about him or what he’s doing. Just that I know and recognize how good he is at doing it.

Also, I’m not really too sure about Adam Page. I haven’t seen enough of him to fully judge whether he has the chops to be a top guy going forward as some see him as. To me now he’s nothing special, but I’d like to see him be put with someone his more equal wrestling-wise and for him to have a feud where he can sink his teeth in a little more with someone more of his ilk.

Hirooki Goto Defeated Dalton Castle:

Since Goto’s original opponent Ishii was thrown into that defending his TV title, Goto had to have a new opponent and it probably worked out just as well with Dalton Castle getting a prime spot against the former IGWP Championship no. 1 contender. They had a really great match with a lot of strength moves being used, especially by Castle who showed no struggle putting his signature suplexes on the hefty Goto. I would’ve liked to have seen Castle win, since everybody loves him, all the other NJPW stars won and the company seems to slowly but surely be moving him up the card, but it’s not the worst to have him lose as he still looked fantastic in defeat and it’s not really going to do anything to his status.

Alex Shelley Defeated Christopher Daniels:

This was a really great match, too, as expected from two fantastic wrestlers who have come all the way from TNA and putting on great X division matches. This was really all to set up the reunited of the Moto City Machine Guns with Chris Sabin coming out and turning face to align with Shelley, and also helping him to get the win. This obviously sets up a feud between the newly reformed MCMG and The Addiction, which should result in some fantastic tag bouts.

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin Defeated The Briscoes:

This was definitely the second best match of the night (behind the six-man tag) and it makes sense since it’s hard to find any better veteran journeyman workers like Tanahashi/Elgin and the Briscoe brothers. I absolutely love the Tanahashi/Elgin pairing, they seem so different, yet so perfect for each other and put in some great collaborative work as the best babyface tag team out there for my money right now. I heard some thoughts that they might challenge for the NJPW tag titles, which would be a fun program. Also, I’m no doctor, but Tanahashi’s shoulder looks pretty damn healed and he showed no issues with it or shied away from it at all. If it wasn’t already apparent that dude is the Japanese John Cena, he’s apparently got his freakish fast-healing skills as well.

It’s kinda crazy to me that Jay Briscoe had one of the biggest and longest ROH World title reigns and was the top guy in the company and then as soon as he lost to Lethal he was eventually just down doing random tag matches with his brother. I wonder what the plans are with him, if it’s just a holding pattern for now, as he seems like too good of a guy just to be stuck doing largely nothing matches. Granted, he’s been with the company forever and done it all, so who knows.

Kazuchika Okada Defeated Moose:

I definitely can’t say I was really looking forward to this because I couldn’t believe they booked this match, not only because it was the IWGP champ against Moose, but because Okada and Moose had such different style that I didn’t think anything that good would come out of it. It was actually pretty good, though! It wasn’t amazing or anything, but definitely not as bad or boring as I expected it to be. I mean, Moose is big obviously and also very athletic, which he did well to utilize to keep up pace with Okada and thus never devolved into a “big lug versus small guy” fight, and actually had a pretty nice pace to it. It was probably Moose’s best match he’s had and really you’d assume only good things would come out of this since it was actually pretty good, but I guess if you’re getting booked in a singles match with Okada in the first place you’re doing something right.

The Elite Defeated Kushida, ACH and Matt Sydal to retain the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship:

Everybody had huge expectations of what to expect and what they wanted to see out of this match, and it’s pretty safe to safe that they were all blown out of the water. There literally wasn’t a weak link anywhere in this match between any of the six guys, the spots and staging, everything was perfect and would literally be a blur if I attempted to type out every move these guys did. Kenny Omega and the Bucks were CRAZY over and treated these dudes like gods, especially Omega who now being booked as a top guy in NJPW just overnight seems like this huge star. While The Elite got the enormous reactions, Kushida, ACH and Sydal were more than up to the task of equally them in the ring and looked great all around. My love for ACH grows by the match, it’s no question he’ my favourite guy in the company (outside of maybe Jay Lethal), and he should be star wherever he is in the next couple years.

War Machine Defeated The All Night Express to retain the ROH World Tag Team Championship:

These poor guys. Nothing could have followed that six-man tag match and as soon as this thing began it was like all the air was released from the room. The crowd was deflated as they just spent all their energy going crazy for the six guys before that they really couldn’t care less about this match. The match was no DQ which involved weapons into the melee, but that did nothing to help entice the crowd. I mean, it wasn’t the greatest match with the best guys to begin with, but it wasn’t bad, just stuck in an unfortunate spot where the guys got nothing from the crowd and seemed to reflect back the same.

Jay Lethal Defeated Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly to retain the ROH World Championship:

Even the world title main event seemingly was still feeling the hungover effects of the six-man match as while this thing was a bit more lively than the tag title match, the crowd was still very quiet throughout and never really gave the match any of that main event energy, with the match suffering because of it.

It was a good match, though, not an all-time classic or anything, but really good. I didn’t think they’d take the belt off of Lethal this soon, but it does feel like it might be soon and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did take it off him. Granted, I love Lethal and think he still has a ton more run left as the champ and is doing great work, so I think there’s still time with him, but it wouldn’t shock me to have him lose. I was shocked that Adam Cole took the pin and not O’Reilly, so maybe it will indeed be O’Reilly who eventually takes the belt, as he definitely has the wrestling skills, although nowhere near as good as Lethal or Cole on the mic.

O’Reilly is just so fun to watch and if you somehow think technical wrestling is boring, Kyle is never not boring and always has some flair with his chain wrestling. One of the best spots was when O’Reilly had both Lethal and Cole in a submission at the same time.

I’m not really sure how this review came off, but overall I wasn’t really all that enamored with the show. It wasn’t bad, but didn’t really leave me with anything all that positive going forward out of it outside of the six-man tag match. It feel into good, not great, territory, something that as I mentioned above I don’t think ROH really has that liberty to put on something just good and not all that memorable. The year is early, though, and I really don’t see any reason why this year shouldn’t be as good as the last as they got a lot of fundamental pieces to build off. Their TV taping set got a massive upgrade with a new lighting grid and a whole new entrance stage, so they definitely are trying on all ends to make the product as appealing visually as possible (I never had an issue with it before, since I kinda like that gritty, dingy look, but I get how people would be turned off by it). ROH and NJPW are probably my two favourite companies, and not coincidentally the two companies I have the most trust in when it comes to booking matches and creating long-term angles and thus serving their characters. That’s why when they don’t hit it out of the park I’m more forgivable on one hand, but on the other it continually seems like in this day and age with all the competition out there’s becoming less and less of a safety net.

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