Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Best of Their World: ROH Showcases Itself Unapologetically

New Champ!
Photo Credit: ROH Facebook Page

When a wrestling company presents their product to a prospective audience through a new outlet, as Ring of Honor did the past Sunday with their first live pay-per-view event offered through cable and satellite providers, it can go over one of two ways. Either they can add as many big names as possible and try to appeal to people outside of their core audience (much like TNA's ill-fated decision to let Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff lead their move to Monday nights) or present the best that their product already has to offer and stay true to what they have done. With "Best in the World", ROH gave the audience a typical ROH show, warts and all, and it was damn good.

ROH, to use a baseball analogy, has always been a company that either hits it out of the park or strikes out, in my humble opinion. Best in the World was another example of this idea as each match (and interview segment) had phenomenal moments interspersed with sloppy exchanges. Because of this dichotomy of quality, I have provided what I thought were the most noticeable pros and cons aspects of each match.

6-Man Mayhem - ACH vs. Takaaki Watanabe vs. Caprice Coleman vs. Tommaso Ciampo vs. BJ Whitmer vs. Tadarius Thomas

Pros: There were copious amounts of spots in this match and that really jolted the crowd and got them hyped up for the rest of the card. Each man (except for one, whom I'll get to later) provided what they do best to the match and it all worked well. I enjoyed Whitmer denying ACH from diving to the outside on two separate occasions, Coleman hitting two Northern Lights suplexes with a backflip into a double Northern Lights suplex pinning combination and especially the high-angle senton bomb to the outside that ACH hit. He jumped with one foot off of the second rope into the maneuver with incredible height. It was easily the most impressive part of the match and ACH was worthy of the victory that he obtained.

Cons: Watanabe is new to ROH, so that may have attributed to his lackluster performance in the match, but he was noticeably atrocious. He seemed a step slow compared to his opponents. He busted open Ciampa with some standing elbows, and the rest of his offense that didn't hit too close looked labored. I'm sure as he spends more time in ROH (if he spends more time in the United States) then his chemistry with the other wrestlers will improve, but Watanabe's performance was subpar at Best in the World.

ROH TV Title Match - Jay Lethal vs. Matt Taven

Pros: Well... the handcuffing of Truth Martini was funny. Martini and Seleziya Sparx provided some comic relief as he tried to run away from being locked to the ring post and ended up being carried back by Sparx. Taven getting a nice sequence of a front handspring off the ropes into a jumping enzugiri followed by a Brainbuster by Taven on Lethal was the only other bright spot.

Cons: Despite having wrestled each other multiple times, there were many maneuvers that did not appear to land properly. It made for a disjointed match that never engaged the crowd. Also, Taven never got his hands on Martini, and with Lethal getting the pin after hitting the Lethal Injection, this only means that the rivalry will continue. I, for one, am not looking forward to that.

Submission Match - Cedric Alexander vs. Roderick Strong

Pros: That back body drop from the outside onto the apron was absolutely brutal! Strong launched Alexander over his head and onto the apron in a sickening manner, and it looked fantastic. Alexander also hit a turnbuckle backbreaker on Strong that looked excruciating. Hell, everything else these men did to each other looked stiff. These two men have pushed each other every time they squared off in the ring, and it has lifted this feud to relevance despite its mid-card standing. The finish of Alexander putting Strong in the Stronghold and getting the decision was well-deserved.

Cons: But for real, that back body drop was so dangerous! Why would you ever try that spot?! Who decided on that spot?! Who ordered that code red?! How old is that movie reference?! Sorry, that move was incredibly unnecessary, and I hate myself for loving it.

The Briscoes vs. Matt Hardy and Michael Bennett

Pros: The two table spots in the match were absolutely pretty. Mark Briscoe hit the Froggybow from the top rope onto Bennett, and Jay Briscoe superplexed Hardy through a table in the ring from the top of a ladder. Afterward, Jay Briscoe hit Hardy with the Jay Driller and got the pinfall. That superplex in particular was about as safe as you can make it and well done by both men. I can not believe that Hardy is still taking those bumps and still looks good doing it.

Cons: The aforementioned tables were not a part of the build up to this tag team match. Only when Bennett hit Jay Briscoe over the head with the "Iconic" title belt did Nigel McGuinness see to it that the match would become a No Disqualification match. The easier and much more appealing move would have been to make it a No DQ match before the event. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to add that stipulation to a match when you are trying to sell a Pay Per View.

At this point in the show, Larry Mercer and Mandy Leon interviewed Moose, a wrestler from their Ring of Honor Dojo. Veda Scott and Ramon then interrupted them and asked Moose if he would like Scott's services as a manager. He stated that he just wanted to focus on the matches going on at the event and to not talk about business affairs.

The bit itself was mediocre due to Moose's stilted delivery on the microphone. He is good in the ring from what I have seen, but his microphone skills need work (I feel like that is a recurring theme in this company). The only good thing about this interview? Scott appeared on my television screen! I love that woman's character and she is a stunning beauty. I guess I'm only talking about this segment to publicly state that I have a crush on her. Hopefully soon it will be reciprocated.

Kevin Steen vs. Silas Young

Pros: These two men hit their spots properly and efficiently. The match itself contained everything that you expect from a Steen match and Young kept up with him. After the match (which Steen won via a Package Piledriver), Steen spoke to Young and called him an "exceptional professional wrestler" and the two exchanged a handshake. Young then walked out of the ring only to run back in and attack Steen. It was well done and allows for the feud to continue.

Cons: Young is a very good wrestler, but he is not a dynamic character. There is not much to this storyline and I am conflicted about watching Steen finish off this ROH run with a feud that is mostly insignificant. Hopefully these two men are able to provide some content that will engender more of an investment from the crowd.

ROH Tag Team Championship - reDRagon vs. Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian

Pros: I am an admitted mark for the tag team formerly known as "Bad Influence," and they performed well for two guys who had either not wrestled in ROH for a long time. My favorite spots involved Kazarian hitting a sick looking T-bone suplex off of the top rope on Kyle O'Reilly and Daniels attempting three separate moonsaults but landing on his feet as his target rolled away. His agility is so impressive.

Cons: The lack of ring time that these two teams have with each other did rear its ugly head at times. There were moments of confusion between the teams and it caused for some messy sequences. After a few more matches as a team in ROH, Daniels and Kazarian will clean that up and provide some fantastic moments with reDRagon and other tag teams in the company.

ROH World Championship - Adam Cole vs. Michael Elgin
Pros: There was never a doubt that Hardy, Bennett, and even Maria Kanellis would show up and interfere with this match in order to help Cole, but all of the interference happened in an efficient middle portion of the match and did not linger. Bringing out the tag team War Machine to clear out Bennett and Hardy was a nice callback to ROH TV. Then MsChif, Elgin's wife and fellow wrestler, coming out and spwed Green Mist into Kanellis's face, which really popped on the screen. Elgin then hit Cole with a Buckle Bomb and an Elgin Bomb and only got a two count. The crowd thought it was a three count and began throwing streamers into the ring, but when they realized their mistake the crowd followed that with a "We Fucked Up" chant. All of this made for an exciting match and finish when Elgin Power Bombed Cole three consecutive times to finally finish the match and become ROH World Champion.
Cons: Is this result surprising? Absolutely not. Anyone who had kept up with this story and saw that these two were wrestling at ROH's first traditional live PPV could see this was coming. Elgin is a deserving Champion, but he is incredibly average on the microphone, and his in-ring offense is monotonous. He's is not as dynamic a performer as Cole, and it is a bit worrisome to think about the immediate future of the ROH World Championship. I'm wearily intrigued to see what happens next with Elgin, but for now, it is time to give credit where it is due and congratulate him on finally obtaining the ROH World Title.

Overall, ROH gave the paying audience a show that I feel was worthy of the money spent. This event reminded me of ECW's first PPV Barely Legal in its ability to entertain despite some clunky production or match issues. For everything that was good or bad, Best in the World"was definitively a ROH show in production and execution and it is always a good thing when your wrestling company can provide a distinct point of view. This show is definitely something that the company can be built upon.