Ring of Honor TV
September 9, 2015
Last week, I criticized the build to Ring of Honor’s All-Star Extravaganza pay-per-view. That’s nothing new for me when it comes to ROH PPVs. However, I usually think the company fails to put much effort toward producing excitement for their big cards. This time, the main matches for the September 18 show are the logical conclusion of fairly long-term stories. But to this point the stakes have seemed lower than ideal due to the relative stagnancy of the programs. The Jay Lethal double shot of championship defenses against Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish of reDRagon have been set for awhile. The confrontations between Moose and Cedric Alexander and Dalton Castle and Silas Young have been in need of a blow off for some time, based on modern pro wrestling timelines, anyway. And ROH has not found ways to heighten the intensity of those programs nor have they introduced new programs that are just starting to simmer.
Despite that, the show promises to be excellent thanks to those three bouts as well as a Briscoes open challenge match, ACH vs. Matt Sydal, and other as-yet-unannounced matches that will surely be intriguing at worst. So, my criticism is not that Ring of Honor hasn’t built a good card of wrestling matches. But I would like to see them find that sweet spot of above-average matches with the right amount of juice that can lead to increased business and a better overall product. All that said, ROH has two episodes to improve the build for All-Star Extravaganza and the matches scheduled for tonight’s episode were promising.
Babyface Roderick Strong : Lettuce :: Cheeseburger : Cheeseburger
The show opened with competing pre-tape promos from Jay Lethal and Roderick Strong to set up tonight’s main event rematch from their 60-minute time limit draw at Death Before Dishonor. Lethal gave a very spirited promo, in which he said that not only should Roddy go to the back of the line but that Cheeseburger deserves a shot at the title more than Roddy does! Roddy cut his same old promo. Strong is so much more interesting with his PWG heel persona than he is with his white meat babyface persona in ROH.
ROH World Tag Team Championship Match – The Addiction (c) vs. The Young Bucks
The Bucks are pissed, folks! The Addiction recently tied up Matt and Nick and proceeded to brutalize and mock them. In response, the Bucks started the Superkick Party as soon as the bell rang. From there, the match went about how you would expect. The Bucks hit their spots and The Addiction tried to slow the match down when they were able to obtain control. Business picked up when The Kingdom came down to the ring and seemed to be trying to help The Bucks. There was a great spot where The Bucks teased The Indytaker but instead, Nick moonsaulted off the top rope onto The Kingdom. Luckily, he came back and hit The Indytaker anyway but Christopher Daniels pulled Paul Turner out of the ring before he could count to three. The match ended when Matt attempted to Superkick Maria but was caught and rolled up for a pinfall by Kazarian. The match was fun when Matt-o and Nick-o were in control but The Addiction control segments were not just slow but also sloppy, with Daniels being the main offender. The beginning of the match tricked me into thinking The Bucks would be a little more aggressive here than they normally are, which had me hoping I would see some different offense. As a normal Bucks match, I would have liked to see this get more time but it served its purpose. **3/4
Nigel McGuinness was nonplussed with this finish and came out to voice his displeasure with the change in Christopher Daniels from his role in the start of Ring of Honor to now. He was further unimpressed with The Kingdom’s intervention in this championship match. So, Nigel announced that, at All-Star Extravaganza, The Young Bucks will be joining The Addiction and The Kingdom in a three-way match for the ROH World Tag Team Titles.
We’re Getting a Divorce, You Keep The Boys
Mandy Leon’s This Week in ROH segment focused on the Dalton Castle/Silas Young feud. Both performers cut effective promos, with Silas Young getting the better of Castle in this exchange. Young’s promo was slightly problematic in that he said if he wins The Boys, he’ll teach them to “tell a mouthy broad when to shut up.” I get that it fits with his character but Castle isn’t exactly the proper babyface to give the sexist character his comeuppance. Most troubling, from a writing standpoint, was Young’s suggestion that after he gets hold of The Boys, people might consider them “rude and misogynistic.” I find it highly unlikely that Young’s character would even know the word misogynistic, let alone be able to say without having to spit it from his mouth.
From a purely storyline perspective, this fell into the same trap I was talking about at the start of this review. These have been the stakes in this match for some time now. I know the match will be good but ROH isn’t doing anything to make me feel like I have to see it.
ROH World Championship Match – Jay Lethal (c) v. Roderick Strong
This is, of course, the rematch to Lethal and Roddy’s 60-minute draw. I hated that match but I am a fan of both of these guys so I went into the match with high hopes anyway. And those were rewarded as this was an excellent match. Lethal and Strong started immediately with a very fast pace, both men wanting to prove they could put the other away. The entire contest showed that Lethal and Strong were evenly matched with neither being able to create enough separation to be in position for a win. The effort and energy put into trying to find one more tactic to put his opponent away forced both men into pure exhaustion. And at that point the match was just heating up.
As Lethal and Strong picked the pace back up to sprint toward the finish, there were several fantastically-done spots. Lethal tried to end the match with a Lethal Injection but Roddy got out of the way and met Lethal instead with a Sick Kick. Lethal took a wonderful bump, flipping all the way around and landing on his stomach. The bump really put the spot over as what seemed like a turning point. Roddy took advantage of his new-found momentum and put what energy he had left into clearing out The House of Truth and trying to extract the last bit of will from the champion. Sensing that he didn’t have enough left to put away the reinvigorated Roddy, and perhaps fearing the further appearance of weakness after being taken to the limit before, Lethal got hold of the ROH World Championship belt and hit Roddy with it. That allowed him enough space for a Lethal Injection. But Roddy kicked out! At that point, the crowd was going nuts and a title change almost seemed plausible. But the exhausted challenger could not even gain his footing before the champ hit a second Lethal Injection to retain his title. ****1/4
The show ended with O’Reilly and Fish at the top of the ramp looking on at the damaged Lethal. The message was clear: Lethal may have found a way to survive Roderick Strong twice but he can’t escape two strong competitors in one night.
Final Thoughts: This episode did not erase my concerns about the build to All-Star Extravaganza. The match did perhaps make Lethal seem slightly weaker going into his title defenses but the status quo was largely maintained. However, if you view this episode on its own, as you often have to do with Ring of Honor, it was fantastic. The opening match was a fine bout that others may enjoy more than I did. But the main event was on another level from most television matches. I want to say that I wish this had been their Death Before Dishonor match but, as much as I disliked it, the 60-minute draw played so well into this match that it really took it to another level. Lethal/Strong II is easily the best Ring of Honor Television match of the year that doesn’t include New Japan talent. It is a must watch.