When the cards for the highly anticipated ROH/New Japan “Global Wars” & “War of the Worlds” shows were announced, a collective groan could be heard around the internet. The lineup wasn’t even close to (the perhaps unrealistic) expectations of fans, and the disappointing (or at minimum, controversial) New Japan “Wrestling Dontaku” show did nothing to provide the injection of enthusiasm fans were looking for.
I think it’s fair to say that the shows ended up wildly exceeding on paper expectations.
Toronto’s “Global Wars” ended up being a perfectly acceptable, well above average show which introduced the ROH audience to the New Japan stars, which set the scene for New York. New York’s “War of the Worlds” ended up being a Best Show of the Year contender, with four outstanding matches and only one match that could reasonably be argued as below average (and even that match has garnered praise in some circles).
A few hours before the show, we received word that as expected Kazuchika Okada would be inserted into the IWGP Heavyweight Title match, making the bout a three way. When multiple sources confirmed the same plan, we reported it. This apparently wasn’t finalized until the day of the show, with one working idea being floated around of Okada facing the winner of the Styles/Elgin match in an impromptu main event. The three way idea worked out much better. Adding a match would have chopped time off of everything else, and on this show, just about every match (with the possible exception of Adam Cole vs Jushin Liger) was a comfortable length.
Big news from an ROH perspective broke when it was announced that ROH would be taking TNA’s spot for the annual Brooklyn Cyclone’s outdoor wrestling show this August. This was often TNA’s biggest domestic gate of the year. Conspicuous by their absence on the show poster were ACH, Roderick Strong, and most notably Kevin Steen, all of whom participated in a WWE tryout camp a couple of months ago. More on that later.
The other big news was a vignette that ran after the show signed off the air. Christopher Daniels says he’s “coming home” at “Best in the World”, ROH’s return to traditional PPV next month. He was joined by a man whose identity was not revealed, but it was strongly hinted that it was Frankie Kazarian. Daniels said he wasn’t coming back alone.
1. ACH, Matt Taven, & Tomasso Ciampa vs Rocky Romero, Alex Kozlov, & Takaaki Watanabe – This match had some odd pairings, with ACH teaming with a couple of tweeners, and Watanabe teaming with CHAOS members. Watanabe was heeling it up pretty good during his entrance. Ciampa has a real star vibe in the way he carries himself. New York is the only market I’ve seen that doesn’t react to ACH when he comes out, but he managed to get over later. It should also be noted that the crowd was pretty lousy all night, but more on that in a bit. Everybody had a chance to shine here, with Romero’s corner clothesline spot and Kozlov’s Russian routine getting over. The highlight was ACH hitting a picture perfect Air Jordan (a one footed springboard plancha) that popped the crowd. The move always looks great, but he REALLY nailed it this time. Taven beat Watanabe with his Climax reverse DDT. It looked sloppy, but the announcers put it over huge. This gets an extra full star for ACH’s incredible dive. ***
2. BJ Whitmer & Roderick Strong vs Gedo & Jado – On paper this looked like the worst match, but ended up being pretty good. Whitmer is a heat vacuum. He should be the fourth member of Evolution. Gedo was the babyface in peril here, which meant a Jado hot tag. In a performance reminiscent of Hulk Hogan’s final match in Philadelphia a few years ago, Jado managed to complete a full babyface comeback while barely moving, as Strong & Whitmer ran into his chops & fists. The closing stretch was really good, with some convincing near falls. Gedo & Jado pulled out all of the crafty tricks and turned this into something much better than it had any right to be. Strong hit Gedo with a gutbuster, followed by a lariat to the back of the head and a sick kick for the win. ***
3. ROH World Television Title: Jay Lethal (c) vs KUSHIDA – This was the KUSHIDA coming out party. He was fantastic here, and one of the stars of the night. Lethal held up his end just fine as well. He’s underrated. First big spot was Lethal getting his knees up on a moonsault, which earned a two count. KUSHIDA did a sick cannonball senton from the top turnbuckle to the outside. He went for a cover moments later, but Truth Martini pulled Todd Sinclair out of the ring before the three count. Sinclair threw Martini out. This hyped the crowd, who were into KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA hit a picture perfect German for a near fall that people bought. Lethal got a near fall with the Lethal Combination. KUSHIDA hit a beautiful Frankensteiner off the top for two. The finishing sequence was fun. Lethal Irish whipped KUSHIDA, who countered with a back hand spring, but Lethal moved. KUSHIDA was disoriented, and Lethal hit a superkick & Lethal Injection for the win. Great match with a cool, clean finish. If KUSHIDA was sticking around, this would be a star maker. He’s become a trendy pick to win Best of the Super Juniors. ****
4. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (c) vs The Briscoes – The crowd absolutely murdered this. The match was fine, an perfectly decent bout with good structure and solid work, but nobody cared. I was shocked that the crowd wasn’t strongly into the idea of The Briscoes going after a pair of tag team titles. Guns & Gallows hit the Magic Killer on Mark for the win. The post match handshake was contentious, hinting at something between Jay & Doc down the line. Knock off a quarter star (at least) for the crowd. **1/2
5. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kevin Steen – The IWGP IC title was not on the line, but they said Steen would be the #1 contender if he won. I like when small things like that are added in the commentary. Steen has been openly hinting that he’s done with ROH. Since he’s made it no secret, we can say that we did receive a tip from a source last week that Steen is indeed telling people that he is “on his way to Florida” next month. Dueling chants at the start for each guy, and this was the first match on the two joint shows that felt like a true inter-promotional dream bout. First big spot was Steen delivering his apron powerbomb on Nak. This led to a hot sequence where Steen hit a draping DDT to get Nak back in the ring, Nak escaping a package piledriver attempt with a backstabber, and Nak missing a Boma Ye leading to a Steen sit out powerbomb for two. The finish was excellent. Steen went for another package piledriver, and again Nak flipped out of it. Nak hit a Boma Ye off the second turnbuckle, and then another running version. Steen kicked out at one in a great fighting spirit spot, which got a fantastic reaction out of Nak. Nak hit a third Boma Ye, and Steen was dead. The finish with the perfectly timed & well placed fighting spirit kick out made the match. Steen was in the middle of his farewell speech when Silas Young interrupted. Young ripped all of the champions, including calling Adam Cole a ladyboy. Then he called Steen a pussy, leading to a big pull apart. ****1/4
Intermission. The feed dropped for the first time on either of the two USTREAM shows. Hitting refresh fixed it and I had no other issues on either show.
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Mike Bennett – After Mike Bennett threw a hissy fit on Twitter because fans were disappointed in this matchup, and Tanahashi vowed to have a great match in NYC, they ended up having what may have been the worst match on the show. This crowd did not come to see a long control period with bear hugs & reverse chin locks, but that’s what Bennett gave them. This was a tough crowd to begin with, they lost them early, and didn’t get them back until the finish. Tons of Maria interference, leading to speculation that Tanahashi needed the shortcuts due to his bad back. Tanahashi saved this at the end, with a German suplex on the apron, followed by a crazy High Fly Flow cross body to the outside, and a High Fly Flow back inside for the win. This wasn’t a good match until the final minutes, and Bennett looked like he didn’t belong on the same card as the rest of the talent. Not his best night. **1/2
7. ROH World Tag Team Titles: Young Bucks (c) vs reDRagon – I don’t even know where to start. This was flat out incredible. The Young Bucks are now the runaway favorites for Tag Team of the Year. reDRagon were accompanied to the ring by current MMA fighter and future pro wrestler Tom Lawler. This match was so utterly insane that I could not keep up with taking my notes and just gave up. All four men were flat out great, but Kyle O’Reilly in particular was outstanding and the star of the match. Bucks went for the springboard tombstone, but O’Reilly yanked Matt from the apron, and Fish reversed Nick into a Fish Hook. Later, the Bucks maneuver O’Reilly & Fish into the tombstone position, dropkicked Fish’s knees out from under him, and Fish tombstoned O’Reilly. Fish hit a top rope Falcon Arrow for a near fall. reDRagon tried for Chasing the Dragon but it was broken up. There was just too much happening to keep up with. At one point the Bucks broke up an O’Reilly choke with a springboard 450 and nearly broke O’Reilly in half. For the finish, the Bucks went for More Bang for Your Buck, but O’Reilly got the knees up on Nick, and Matt, who didn’t see that, moonsaulted right into a triangle choke. That looked amazing. O’Reilly hit a brainbuster for a near fall, and they hit the Chasing the Dragon for another two count. O’Reilly put Matt in an arm bar, and Fish cut off Nick from the save. Matt tapped. Innovative, exciting, perfectly executed. A Match of the Year contender. ****3/4
8. ROH World Title: Adam Cole (c) vs Jushin “Thunder” Liger – Liger was given a special entrance video that bled into his live entrance. It really made him stand out and feel special. Like Toronto, he was super over with the crowd. The first few minutes were Liger running through a series of submissions. This was pretty awesome. Cole hit a big superkick to take control. It seems like the superkick is the transition move of choice for 75% of the ROH roster. Liger’s big nearfall was a brainbuster. Cole used a figure four, but Liger made the ropes. The building would have exploded if Liger had won the title, but I got the sense they knew he couldn’t really win. Cole hit another superkick, locked in the figure four, and Liger surprisingly gave up. The finished came a bit out of nowhere and seemed abrupt. Cole blew off the post match handshake, which got good heat. Liger sold the figure four like a million bucks all the way to the back. ***
9. IWGP Heavyweight Title: AJ Styles (c) vs Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada – I kept waiting for Bullet Club interference that never came, which is not a complaint. Elgin gave Okada & Styles a dual Samoan Drop/overhead toss in an impressive power spot. A major part of the story was Elgin selling an injured knee. Styles used the calf cutter on Elgin, but it was too early in the match so nobody bought it as the finish. But that’s a minor gripe, as the rest of this was pretty great. In a cool spot, Elgin superplexed Okada, but Styles hit a springboard 450 on Elgin for a near fall. The finish was very good, and well booked. Styles hit a Pele kick on Okada and went for the Styles Clash, but Okada reversed it into a tombstone. Okada set up the Rainmaker, but Elgin broke it up. Elgin used a buckle bomb on Okada. Okada recovered and hit his big dropkick, and killed Elgin with a Rainmaker. Elgin took a fantastic looking bump. Styles came out of nowhere with his springboard flying forearm on Okada, knocking him out of the ring. Styles gave the already dead Elgin the Styles Clash, and stole the pin. Great match. Cole laid everybody out with belt shots in the post match. ****1/2
This was a great show, despite the crowd coming off quiet at times on the iPPV (we got several reports from fans who were there live who said the crowd was super hot in the building, which did not translate to the iPPV at all). Every finish was clean, even in the matches involving Bullet Club members, which was very refreshing. ROH has a ton of momentum heading into next months traditional PPV (re)debut, and is arguably the most interesting North American promotion going today. The relationship with New Japan, which appears to have a future, is beneficial for both sides, and the upside of the conservative booking on the first two shows is that several intriguing inter-promotional matches remain on the table for the future.