Ring of Honor
August 12, 2015
The big Field of Honor event, featuring the return of many New Japan Pro Wrestling stars, is only about ten days away. Being a one-off exhibition show, there isn’t much need to promote it on television heavily. Instead, it’s time to start setting the stage for All-Star Extravaganza on September 18. ROH Episode #203 does just that.
Takaaki Watanabe vs. ACH
Watanabe, the New Japan product, has been little used since he came to the United States for his excursion. The more I have seen of him, however, the more impressed I’ve been and the more interested I’ve been in seeing him return to New Japan. As for ACH, he was mired in a feud with Adam Page and The Decade for months and, amazingly, came out on the short end. Still, he’s always fun to watch so I was definitely looking forward to this matchup.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet my expectations. At the start of the match, Watanabe and ACH seemed to be going at about half speed. By the time they got going, there wasn’t enough time left to wholly salvage the match. However, there was a great spot where the fight spilled outside the ring and Watanabe attempted to throw ACH into the post. To avoid smashing into it, ACH ran up the post and flipped all the way over back onto his feet. But as ACH celebrated his extraordinary display of athleticism, Watanabe grabbed him around the waist and sent him flying with a German suplex. ACH was able to regain control and finished off Watanabe with a 450 splash that was literally off the top rope, rather than off the top turnbuckle.
For the Ring of Honor fans who primarily follow the product through the television and pay-per-views, it was important for ACH to get a victory. He’s taken too many pinfalls at the hands of Adam Page and needs some momentum. Watanabe is positioned only slightly above Cheeseburger so it was fine for him to take the fall. Hopefully this is a harbinger of more bookings to come for Watanabe. **1/2
The Kyle O’Reilly-as-champion discussion continues…
Tonight’s main event is reDRagon vs. The Kingdom. In service of that match, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly cut a pre-taped promo. This was pretty good, thanks to Bobby Fish, but was a fine reminder that Kyle O’Reilly just isn’t ready for a spot at the top of this company. It was fine in PWG, where almost all of the action happens bell-to-bell. However, in ROH, the champ is required to build programs with character work. It’s not just that O’Reilly’s promos aren’t that great; in general, he carries himself in a way that is stilted and awkward. I am a huge fan of the guy and love his work. But the drop off in character work from Jay Briscoe to Jay Lethal to Kyle O’Reilly is so steep. I can’t imagine going that way if I were booking this company.
As if on cue, Nigel McGuinness came out out to announce that Jay Lethal and Roderick Strong will have a rematch from the 60-minute draw at Death Before Dishonor on the August 21 television tapings. The winner of that match will go on to defend the ROH World Championship against Kyle O’Reilly at All-Star Extravaganza on September 18. To add a wrinkle, earlier that night at ASE, Bobby Fish will wrestle whoever holds the ROH World Television Championship for that belt.
That seems to be set up for Jay Lethal to be weakened enough for Kyle O’Reilly to take the World title from him. Of course, that would be a poor way to start O’Reilly’s title reign if he’s a young guy around whom ROH thinks they can build. It would be much better to use the scenario to strengthen Lethal’s bonafides, especially coming off a dreadful 60-minute draw, by taking out two strong competitors in one night. In fact, it’s a somewhat natural progression from showing his ability to go 60 minutes. In turn, though, that weakens O’Reilly. But I’ve never thought O’Reilly was particularly well positioned to be the top singles guy so there’s plenty of time to build him up in the wake of a loss to the champion.
The House of Truth (Donovan Dijak & J. Diesel) vs. War Machine
The point of this match was that Hanson is getting a shot at the television championship on the episode that will air three weeks from now. Hanson’s candidacy for the title match is based on the fact that he beat Jay Lethal as Survival of the Fittest last year. Folks, I don’t want to get you too excited but we are building to a match that is three weeks away!
The more important thing about this match, however, may be that it features Donovan Dijak, the world’s greatest Twitter vanity searcher.
— Donovan Dijak (@DonovanDijak) August 11, 2015
Once the match got started, we were treated to a fun little sprint. As I said last week during their bizarrely slow match with The Young Bucks, War Machine does better with a faster paced contest. That’s exactly what these four brought. War Machine showed quick, athletic power moves and Dijak and Diesel mostly bumped their asses off. Apart from a weird spot where the diminutive Diesel took Hanson down with a spear and a bad Rowe botch that made me fear for Dijak’s life, this was a good, short match.
Afterward, Jay Lethal, who was sitting in on commentary, got slightly unhinged talking about facing Hanson in three weeks. They are building up this idea that the pressure of carrying both titles is getting to Lethal. I like the story but fear it ends with that O’Reilly win at All-Star Extravaganza after Lethal has to defend both belts. I’m completely incapable of making up my mind on where this is headed. **3/4
Adam Page vs. Tim Hughes
This was a squash match set up for Page by BJ Whitmer. Unfortunately, BJ Whitmer then cut a promo. He goads Page into calling out Jay Briscoe, who the commentary team mentions is not present. I guess Page/ACH is over and Page is moving way up the card. There was also some Corino/Whitmer stuff but does anyone honestly care? NR
reDRagon vs. The Kingdom
This is the first time I’ve thought about this but go with me here: isn’t Maria Kanellis’ gear completely ridiculous since she never wrestles? Does any other non-wrestler female (non-Yujiro-companion-division) wear wrestling gear?
You may think pondering that is more interesting than a Kingdom match anyway. You’d mostly be right. reDRagon had the advantage early but that gave way to a long segment with The Kingdom getting the heat on Kyle O’Reilly. He eventually made the hot tag to Bobby Fish, who cleaned house. The beginning of the bout was particularly uninteresting because a) The Kingdom was on offense and b) after the show came back from a commercial break, we were shown highlights that proved all the exciting spots were edited out.
Luckily, after the Fish hot tag, we moved into the back-and-forth portion of the match, which was well done. While I usually can’t stand The Kingdom, they cut off O’Reilly’s rebound lariat so they are now super over with me. That spot is an automatic cringe for me every time. The momentum really picked up at that point of the match as The Kingdom followed it up by killing Kyle with a spike piledriver onto the floor. O’Reilly’s incapacitation was enough to allow them the space to hit Fish with a Hail Mary to win.
Adam Cole was on commentary throughout the match. During that, we learned that the Adam Cole face turn on The Kingdom was pretty much done. He kept insisting that he had no problem with The Kingdom but everything he said made clear that he was no longer a part of the group. That was all solidified after the match when The Kingdom tried to keep attacking Kyle O’Reilly and Cole came to his defense. ***
Final Thoughts: This was the second episode in a row with no standout matches but very welcome story development. After I praised last week’s episode, some people reached out to me to say they were surprised that I liked it. I can only guess that watching this television show intently from week to week makes me grateful for any meaningful storylines, while the occasional delivery of quality matches are truly the cherry on top. ROH has a good start on the build for All-Star Extravaganza, with a main event (most likely) of Jay Lethal vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the World Championship after (most likely) Jay Lethal has already wrestled Bobby Fish for the Television Championship. I’m honestly looking forward to seeing how the rest of the card shapes up.