Sunday, May 14, 2017

ROH War of The Worlds 2017

The biggest show of this year's War of the Worlds tour is in the book. The third annual tour for New Japan stars in North America, and each of the four cards in the past week easily looked  to be Pay-Per-View caliber. Upon first glances at the four final cards, it looked to me that the New York City show was looking to be the least stacked, the whole show felt very thrown together last minute and banking on New Japan stardom to sell (which it id, but that's irrelevant in my argument). After the show was over, and glad that I shielded myself from spoilers, I found myself torn where the show was on the spectrum. Good? Great? Average? Maybe if I go through each match, I'll be able to piece the answer together easier.

Silas Young vs. Bobby Fish vs. Kushida vs. Dalton Castle
This was a very good opening match. It was ROH's trademark insanity to get the crowd up and ready to go for the rest of the show. However, several problems I have with the show overall can be found in this match. Look at the talent involved in this match; New Japan's Junior Ace, and a trio of Ring of Honor's biggest stars who hold at least a dozen World and Television title matches between them (Fish himself a former Television Champion). Putting these four in an opening, nothing match is very confusing move. Another glaring problem with this show was the length of the matches.Nine matches on the card, the longest of the matches went under fourteen minutes. I would have liked less, longer matches between the talent we had on this show. The way the event went, many of the matches felt both rushed to get to the end, while also coming off as really empty for content. Ultimately, Dalton Castle would win a short, but fast paced match, setting an unfortunate one for the night.

Frankie Kazarian vs. Hangman Page
This was, and these two would probably agree, the worst match on the show. Nothing was wrong with the match itself, but a complete lack of heat brought down whatever excitement could be found. This was clearly not their last match, probably setting up to a harder contest at Best in The World. There was a completely disgusting spot involving the men spitting in each other's faces, and at the end of the match Hangman won with the Sunset reversal (Think Davey Boy in Wembley). The Right of Passage no longer bothers me after I've seen Takao Omori do it horrifyingly well, so I know Page could make it believable. But why does a man who's supposed to be a badass and a killer of men use a shooting star headbutt? If I ever meet Page, I'm asking him about this one.

War Machine vs Chris Sabin and Josh Gresham w/Alex Shelley vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL and SANADA)
This match was inexplicably dead. The crowd just refused to get into most of it, until the last three minute stretch. SANADA ad EVIL seemed off tonight, like I was watching Seiyu Sanada and Takaaki Watanabe instead of their usual Ingobernables personas. I feel like this could have been more serviceable as an IWGP tag title match between those two and War Machine, and maybe there would have been more emotion from the crowd. Gresham and Sabin came pre-packed with the heat of "You're not New Japan or War Machine, so piss off." But War Machine was on fire when they were going to work, and it got the Hammerstein crowd into the carnage. They remain my favorite tag team today, and deserve to be every champion in every company until they decide to stop teaming. They won, naturally, killing Sabin in the middle of the ring for the pin.

Jay White vs Will Ospreay
Sometimes, you watch a match and realize you've seen something spectacular. Jay White and Will Ospreay had, I am officially dubbing, the greatest match under fifteen minutes I have ever seen. This is going to be another one of those matches where people are arguing whether this is flippy shit, and whether this is good wrestling. Folks, if there's someone in your life who says it's the former, ask if they actually watched the match. Because there's a chance they've only seen the minute long highlight videos that are bound to be floating around in the next few days. The best moments all revolve around spots that required an insane amount of trust and confidence; Suicide Dive turned into a Belly to Belly against a guardrail, another catch off a dive that turned into Will getting planted neck first onto the apron, and a Os Cutter reversal into just a parade of elbows were some of my favorites. This match deserves to be released by Ring of Honor on Youtube for everyone to see, like Ricochet/Ospreay was for New Japan.

Bully Ray and the Briscoes vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Rocky Romero and Baretta) for the ROH 6-man Tag Titles, No-Disqualification
You know, there's a match between the champions here and Los Ingobernabes de Japon from Dearborn that happened a few days before this show. Why we didn't have that match here is far beyond me. It was a sloppy, in the trenches brawl and the crowd was very into it. Bully Ray came through the crowd and proved he's still incredibly over.
Then the Briscoes started taking chairs to the head.
Chris Benoit's anniversary is coming up. It's been 10 years. I may not like the Briscoes, but that doesn't mean I want to see their brains fucked up. They took a total of seven or eight thrown chairs to the head between the two of them, and the first of them nearly killed the crowd dead.  Because most of us know how serious this shit is now. Baretta took a chair to the head in the match also, getting the same dimming reaction from the crowd. Goto looked so terribly out of place in this setting, and really was only around to fight with Bully. The champions retained here against the CHAOS representatives, extending the impromptu reign another night.

Marty Scrull vs. Matt Sydal for the ROH TV Title
They had a serviceable match. This one will unfortunately get buried in the rest of Marty's matches as TV champion, indistinguishable from his defense against Adm Cole, or Sonjay Dutt, or even the match with Lio Rush. Matt toned down a usually high flying offense for some reason, but was still had a unique enough offense that one can recognize it's him. Marty's set is always good to watch, and his promos before the match in the video hype package are always entertaining. Finger break, Chicken Wing, submission. Business as usual for Marty Scrull.

Well, I guess it isn't though. Im going to be talking about Marty and The Bullet Club now. If you don't care about all that, you can move on to the next match. I'm very opposed to Scrull being a part of the Bullet Club, and it's one simple reason. In 1998, Chris Jericho was afraid of being lumped into the nWo, because he felt like he'd be lost in the shuffle if he was. And, to be fair, the track record of the nWo members and what the members not named Hogan, Nash, Hall, or Savage did in WCW completely justified this fear. I am very afraid that Scrull will suffer this fate, will suffer getting lost in a shuffle of black and white. Whens the last time Yujiro Takahashi had  a meaningful purpose in the Bullet Club? 2014 when he got killed by Ishii? Exactly. Marty is such a dynamic, unique character and wrestler that I'm afraid will be completely lost or misused, even IF New Japan is expanding into the US.

(Hey guys. As I'm editing through this one last time before publishing, I just got word that Marty has, in fact, lost the Television title to KUSHIDA in Philadelphia. Bullet Club's going GREAT so far.)

The Young Bucks vs. Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito and Bushi) for the ROH Tag Team Titles
If Jay White and Will Ospreay wasn't your favorite match on this show, this match may have been your number one. Choosing Bushi to be Naito's partner for this match was ultimately the best choice, the pair's lucha experience melded with the Young Buck's pacing extremely well. This title defense proved to be my favorite Young Bucks match to date. While there's probably been better wrestling on some New Japan shows, or better story telling at PWG events, there were several moments during this match that I won't be forgetting for years. Matt got blinded by Bushi's mist and delivered probably the hardest, most impactful looking superkicks I've ever seen either Jackson throw, and at one point Naito took a stupidly great DDT on the apron that looked killer. This isn't even scratching the surface, but trying to type what happened almost kills the magic of the subtle moments that made those spots good. The Bucks hit the Meltzer Driver on Bushi for the pin, but both LIJ men still looked good in the end. This one had probably the two most over acts on the show (Young Bucks and Tetsuya), and the crowd's cheers and shouts made the match all that much better.

Adam Cole vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Watching this match back helped me a lot, his was one of those matches that I wasn't sure about after I watched the show initially. But after the second watch, I've figured this one out. Adam Cole and Hiroshi Tanahashi was a Tanahashi Wrestle Kingdom/Dominion match, with the middle 20 minutes cut out. There was the initial conflicts, testing each other out and each man getting to do their trademark crowd interactions. Then, somewhere shortly before Cole's first Last Shot, we went into the finish and counter-finish sequence. There was nothing wrong with the content we were given, but if the two were given even five extra minutes we could have had something great to enjoy. This hearkens back, again, to the problem of trying to stuff nine matches into the show. It ended up watering down great matches to good, and good to just alright. Tanahashi eventually hit the High Fly Flow once successfully for the pinfall, giving Adam what is undoubtedly his swan song in ROH.

Christopher Danials vs Cody (Rhodes, fuck WWE) vs Jay Lethal for the ROH World Championship
I want to be fair before I start on this match. The Main events for the broadcasted joint shows have a history of being underwhelming. Elgin/Styles/Okada from 2014 was alright, the ROH All Stars vs Bullet Club in 2015 fight was enjoyable, and Lethal/Cabana was pretty decent, but none were the best match on their respective shows. The trend continued here with a triple threat that may have been what really left me undecided about whether I truly liked this show. The three men did what they could to get a blown up crowd invested in a match they wanted nothing of, and got little success. It would be hypocritical not to call Christopher Daniels a nostalgia run, when I feel like Bully Ray holding the 6-man titles is doing the same thing. The 15th anniversary was a very feel good moment for America's Mr. Anti-Aging, but it's gotten to the point where it's time to move on. Was that time here? I don't know; the crowd seemed hot for Cody but putting the title on a non-signed talent is extremely dangerous, meanwhile Jay Lethal was merely inserted into this match as a practical afterthought and a title win here would be flat as sheet rock. The finish was creative, with a moonsault onto an opponent who couldn't kick out for lack of leg movement via Figure Four, and the emotion pulled out of me for the whole affair doesn't allow me to call it bad. But it's certainly not the best triple threat title match of Danial's career.

I can't call this a truly good show. Almost all of the good matches were cut so that the companies could cram as many matches into the three hours as possible. Plus, most of the matches had little or no context and build, making for crowds who were there to see the stars of New Japan, less than the wrestling. But I can't say this was a bad show, because the good matches were entirely on point, and there's enough quality in the 3 hours to keep a viewer entertained and going crazy when the wrestlers really get going. I can't believe I have to say this, but War of The Worlds 2017, New York City, gets an embarrassing thumbs in the middle. It only gets that because I know that both companies can do better, and we are in an age where we don't need to take what we can get.

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