Early January means one thing for wrestling fans, year-end reviews! Ring of Honor is no different and devoted the first episode of television in 2015 to highlighting the promotion’s highly successful 2014. Along with a few video highlights detailing major events and title changes ROH selected three full matches that epitomized the year that was in the land of honor.
Roderick Strong vs. AJ Styles (ROH TV Tapings – Nashville, TN): I find it highly ironic that AJ made his return in the home city of TNA. Even more ironic is that the cloud of the Dixieland-style followed him into this match, one that would prove to be the most forgettable encounter of the Phenomenal One’s entire run in ROH. The contest’s most notorious moment would begin a horrible year for Styles’ patented finisher.
During the entire match AJ wrestled like he was still on Impact. He rushed to get in his major spots will little to no build up thus depriving the match of a much-needed narrative. Styles did not help himself either by badly botching an attempted Springboard 450 which earned him a tweaked knee.
Roderick Strong deserves a lot of praise of for his performance in the match. He brought his usual blistering offense and pace. Even better Roddy made Styles look great in his return to the company. Later in the year, Strong would do the same thing for Adam Page and Cedric Alexander which went a long way in establishing the credibility of the two youngsters. Strong’s only mistake in the match was not tucking his head during the Styles Clash that won AJ the main event. Due to landing directly on his neck Roddy gave the crowd quite a fright and missed over a month of action.
Besides offering an unintentionally memorable moment this match is just two workers
Kevin Steen vs. Steve Corino (ROH TV Tapings – Dearborn, MI): Mr. Wrestling could have said goodbye to Ring of Honor in so many different ways. It was well within his ability to deliver a technical classic or chaotic brawl. Instead, Steen chose in his final ROH appearance to highlight the very reason WWE came calling — his unique ability to connect with a crowd
The fans in Dearborn were treated to hilariously cheesy hockey style fisticuffs in the opening moments. Later Corino and Steen both took the time steal Colt Cabana’s signature Flying Asshole with Corino’s being comically slowed by his descent into the ravages of middle age. A fan provided Steen with a chance to honor his retired partner El Generico — borrowing the fan’s mask Steen donned it and proceeded to deliver two Ole Kicks to his former SCUM stablemate. I am sure at an orphanage in Mexico, Generico smiled at the nod. Finally, Steen picked up the win with what else but a Package Piledriver.
A fun little match between two friends that contains some great nods to Steen’s past in Ring of Honor. **¾
ROH World Tag Team Championship Match reDRagon vs. The Young Bucks © (War of the Worlds): The fans voted this as ROH’s match of the year for 2014 and they could not have chosen a more deserving match.
For a little over 15 minutes two of the best tag teams in the world awed the crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom. For all the detractors that say Matt and Nick Jackson are among the most repetitive workers in the world, this match is evidence you need to eat crow. It is not the spots they use that amaze their fans but how they manage to incorporate those spots into the match. That creativity was on full display in New York.
reDRagon worked their most intense match of the year here. Take a few moments to observe the look on Kyle O’Reilly’s face, his eyes flashed the flame of a man aiming to decimate. O’Reilly and Fish’s strong style coupled nicely with the aerial ballet of the Jackson but in the end an O’Reilly arm bar netted reDRagon their reign as champions.
A spectacular fifteen minute roller coaster ride that needs to be on any serious wrestling critics top ten for match of the year. ****¾
This episode offers three matches that highlight what made ROH great in 2014. Strong/Styles was the one of many matches that featured returning legends from ROH’s past. Steen/Corino saw the heart and soul of ROH take his final bow and emphasized the need for the company to develop new stars. The tag title match featured the return of two elements that helped make ROH a legendary promotion, joint cards with Japanese promotion and near flawless work rate. If you have already seen most of these matches than this episode can be skipped. For any new fans to the company it is a great chance to familiarize yourself to the company’s in-ring style.