Ring of Honor
Field of Honor
Saturday, August 22
Brooklyn, New York – MCU Park
Wrestling promotions largely compete for the same group of fans. When you’re Ring of Honor, how do you stand out among similarly sized promotions? Or, even better, how do you carve off some of the WWE fans? My own thought, which certainly isn’t overwhelmingly original, is that you have to find ways to seize the conversation. Ring of Honor has found ways to do that, especially with their relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling. If Shinsuke Nakamura and Kazuchika Okada are booked on your show in the United States, people will be talking about it. In fact, going into a weekend where Ring of Honor was competing with NXT’s Takeover: Brooklyn and WWE’s SummerSlam, much of the conversation focused on an ROH card that our preview team called the best of the three.
Once the two WWE shows aired, all the talk centered around the fantastic Sasha Banks vs. Bayley match, the surprising Seth Rollins performance against John Cena, and the redemption of the Undertaker in his performance against Brock Lesnar. But the talk about Field of Honor stalled. It stalled because the show did not air live on PPV. And as the week began, there was no mention of when it might appear. It was Wednesday before it was available to watch on VOD, four days after the show ended. While four days doesn’t seem like a lot, when you’re competing for a part of the conversation, it is sizeable. That is especially true in the age of Twitter where the results of the show were instantly known and new shows from DDT and Big Japan were already floating around the internet by the time Field of Honor hit.
So the big question going into my viewing of Field of Honor was how would the passage of time affect the show? Would the matches have felt differently if I could’ve seen them in real time or nearer to when they occurred? Perhaps more importantly for my purposes, once I watched the show and reviewed it, would anyone care? For wrestling shows, like any other form of entertainment, it’s impossible to recreate that feeling, that buzz, when people all around the world can consume, analyze, and discuss a show in real time. When that can’t happen, the show loses its chance to monopolize the conversation.
Christopher Daniels vs. Adam Cole
Adam Cole is a fantastic example of the confluence of the effects of the passage of time and our collective short attention spans. Cole was a very popular ROH World Champion before injury forced him to the sidelines for months. His absence, combined with less-than-ideal booking upon his return, has relegated Cole to the opening match of this card, with a real need for momentum. I suggested in our Field of Honor preview that Daniels was the perfect opponent for Cole to get back on track.
It did not quite work out that way as Daniels controlled much of the match by focusing on Cole’s previously injured left arm. Cole fought to regain the advantage but Daniels continually cut him off by going back at the arm, which Cole sold expertly. The in-ring work was very good, as was the story the performers told, in spite of a silly Chris Sabin distraction toward the end. Though Cole eventually won, I would have preferred Daniels not get so much offense in a match that should have been a kind of restart for Cole. But this match was positioned to focus on the work and so I’ll evaluate it based on that. ***1/4
Killer Elite Squad vs. War Machine
One of our previewers Rob Reid nailed this match, predicting that War Machine would pick up the win to set up a title shot against KES in Japan. Even more impressively, he did so before it was confirmed that War Machine is going to appear in Pro Wrestling NOAH. My view has always been that, to have their best match, War Machine needs a brutal, fast-paced contest. Almost as if to prove me wrong, early on in this match, KES was in control and slowed down the pace. And it was good. Perhaps I just hadn’t seen War Machine in there with a team at the level of Lance Hoyt and Davey Boy Smith, Jr. But the match got even better as it progressed and the pace and brutality picked up. Overall, this was a good but not great match that screamed of two teams setting a simple foundation with the knowledge that they will be able to build on it over many upcoming matches. I’m looking forward to seeing these teams battle for the GHC Tag Team Championships. ***
ROH World Television Champion Gauntlet Match (Adam Page, Dalton Castle, Kazarian, Silas young, Moose, Donovan Dijak, Cedric Alexander and Watanabe)
My biggest question in trying to determine who would win this match was whether ROH was looking for someone to feed to Lethal (or a new champion) or someone to take the belt off of Lethal. I couldn’t decide so I went with the guy I thought made the most sense in the bigger scheme of things, which to me was Dalton Castle.
Before the match could get started, Adam Page cut another promo directed at Jay Lethal. That appears to be a real impending direction. I was immediately concerned about my Dalton Castle pick when he appeared to join Adam Page as the first two competitors. But I felt slightly more confident because Page and Castle started at a very slow pace. That made me wonder whether the ultimate winner between the two was going to hang around for awhile. After BJ Whitmer and Colby Corino tried to get involved but were stopped by Castle’s Boys, Castle was able to roll up Page to advance. Page decimated Castle afterward, setting up a potentially great surviving performance for the Party Peacock.
And thus the story of the match became Dalton “John Cena” Castle overcoming the odds. Next out was Frankie Kazarian and Castle was in the same position as he was before. Not only was he still feeling the effects of the contest with Page and the post-pin attack, Kazarian had the ringside assistance of Chris Sabin. But again, Castle was able to overcome and, again, Sabin and Kazarian beat down Castle after Kazarian had been eliminated.
Unfortunately, the next man out was Castle’s rival, Silas Young. Silas made relatively quick work of Castle, which made sense, even if it disappointed me by ruining my prediction. But Young would only make it past surprise entrant Bushwhacker Luke before eating a spear from Moose and being eliminated. Amazingly, Donovan Dijak, who entered next, was given more offense than Silas Young. Dijak looked improved since his poor performance against Mark Briscoe at Best in the World, including busting out an impressive moonsault plancha. Dijak was clearly not going to be the guy to take out Moose. Instead, another boring installment of Cedric Alexander with a wrench brought Moose’s end.
But that wasn’t the last we would hear of Moose. The last competitor was Watanabe, who continues to look better and better. He had a couple minutes of fun back and forth with Alexander before Moose came out to seek revenge and helped Watanabe grab the victory and a shot at the ROH World Television Championship on September 19, the night after All-Star Extravaganza.
And that answers the question of what kind of title challenger ROH wanted. The match was logically booked even if I thought there were more interesting things that could have happened. I lost much of the interest I had once Castle and Moose were both eliminated. There’s no great reason for Watanabe getting a title shot but that should be a perfectly fine television match. I just hoped for a little more. **3/4
The Young Bucks, ACH & Matt Sydal vs. The Kingdom & RPG Vice
I hated this. I’m sure it seemed like a clever and funny idea to incorporate the baseball field into this match but a segment where several guys pretended to hit baseballs and then run the bases did not do much for me. It was going to be hard to get me back into the match at that point. A bunch of comedy spots and The Young Bucks’ greatest hits were not nearly enough to do the trick. At one point, I tried to will ACH to slow down so that he wouldn’t make it in time to break up a pinfall. I love the Bucks but I could stand to go a decent amount of time without seeing another one of these multi-mans. *1/2
Michael Elgin vs. Hirooki Goto
To me, the most interesting question coming into this whole show was what kind of reaction #BigMike would get. Elgin was dead in ROH before the G1 Climax. Then, against all odds, Elgin was one of the most over wrestlers on the whole tour by the time it ended. Again, the effect of the passage of time reared its head. Time had rendered ROH fans tired of Elgin but he was brand new to New Japan fans. But time also sat between Elgin’s great performance in the G1 and this show. Would ROH fans still view him as the Elgin they knew or would his great work and crowd response across Japan make the flight back to America? The answer was that the reaction was somewhere in the middle. The fans were more responsive to Mike than they were before his New Japan tour but they still didn’t respond to him as if he were the star he showed he can be.
If you liked Elgin in Japan and you like Goto, you will like this match. It was a pretty routine match between the two that slightly underwhelmed me perhaps due to a little G1 fatigue. But as these two got firing toward the end of the bout, I was right there with them. Elgin’s power kept him in the contest but Goto, the champion, was just too much for the relative newcomer. I expected Elgin to get a win to even the series and set up a challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship but Gedo chose instead to protect his champion. However, on commentary, Kelly and Corino put over that Elgin had to have impressed Goto enough to warrant a rematch. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see that on an NJPW card in the near future. ***1/4
Time Splitters vs. The Briscoes
I have really enjoyed The Briscoes getting back into the tag team picture, and especially seeing them take on relative outsider tag teams like RPG Vice and now the Time Splitters. These matches are an easy way to put The Briscoes in quality, entertaining matches and earn Mark and Jay momentum towards an ROH World Tag Team Championships challenge. While this match wasn’t on the level of the Briscoes/RPG Vice match from Best in the World, the goal was still accomplished: it was unquestionably fun and The Briscoes get another boost.
This contest fell below the Best in the World Match mostly because it was sloppy in places. I believe Shelley and KUSHIDA just needed some time to get back in a groove but they were ultimately unable to because in the middle of the match, Shelley suffered a broken tooth. Once that happened, Shelley had a hard time getting back into the action, though he did toward the finish. Because of the slight but obvious sloppiness, the match never pulled me all the way in. ***
Roderick Strong vs. Kazuchika Okada
Many people thought Roddy was trying out for the G1 at this year’s War of the Worlds and Global Wars shows but it turned out the G1 was already booked before those shows happened. However, it’s hard to ignore that Strong has now been booked against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kazuchika Okada. Either New Japan is considering bringing him in or ROH worked out these match pairings as part of convincing Roddy not to leave for NXT.
Regardless of the larger meaning, Roderick Strong delivered again in this match. And the credit for the performance here is mostly Roddy’s to take. He absolutely worked his ass off in this match. Since he was facing the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Roddy had to pull out everything he had to hang with Okada. All of his offense looked especially focused and brutal. He took Okada to the outside and violently used the barricades as weapons. He countered everything Okada had to offer. Everything was crisp and perfectly on point. When he finally hit the double knee gutbuster and the Sick Kick, I totally, if completely stupidly, bit for the nearfall. But apparently Strong’s offense affected the IWGP Champ too because Okada required two Tombstones before hitting the Rainmaker to finally get the victory. I was already really enjoying this but the hot finish pushed it to another level. ****1/4
reDRagon vs. Jay Lethal & Shinsuke Nakamura
Going in, I thought there were a few purposes to this match: First, give the crowd a treat with Nakamura’s signature spots; and second, add more intrigue to the Lethal vs. Fish and Lethal vs. O’Reilly matches for All-Star Extravaganza. The first purpose was absolutely fulfilled though Nakamura didn’t quite phone in this match as many feared. He didn’t do much the first half of the match but as it devolved into chaos, he was right there in the middle of the action. The crowd wasn’t as hot for Nakamura as I’d expected and as they generally are at these shows, however.
As for the second purpose, the match ended with Lethal getting the pinfall on Fish while Nakmura held O’Reilly in a cross armbreaker. While I predicted Fish to take the loss, I expected Nakamura to pin him. The actual finish plays into Warren Taylor’s prediction that Fish could end up winning Lethal’s Television Championship. That would make for an interesting story as Lethal would be feeling a lot of pressure and be forced to refocus going into his World Championship match with O’Reilly.
The rest of the match was fun but it wasn’t anything special. It was clearly intended to send the crowd home happy rather than to be a 5-star classic. It was going to be hard to follow Strong/Okada anyway. ***1/4
Final Thoughts: It’s hard to look at the way I felt about this card and divide it up between the actual quality of the show and the effects of the passage of time. This was a fun show that never felt like a chore to watch, other than the 8-man tag, but it largely left me cold. I understand why I saw people saying that the in-ring work on this show was better than the NXT show but that the NXT product was better. Nothing here made me feel like I did after Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, even as much as I enjoyed Strong vs. Okada. Would that match have felt differently if I watched it live or could immediately break it down with other people who watched it at the same time I did? Would Banks and Bayley have tugged at my emotions the way they did if I watched that match four days later when many fewer people were still talking about the match? All of that is hard to say. Ring of Honor put on a very solid card here with nearly every match at three stars or better. They sold 2,000 tickets and the same people who always buy the ROH VODs will buy this one. But they failed to seize the conversation. And when you put on a show with Nakamura, Okada, Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong, The Young Bucks, among others, that should not happen.