Ring of Honor TV
October 7, 2015
Last week, I used this space to discuss the different reasons that lead each of us to watch wrestling, particularly Ring of Honor TV. Perhaps simplistically, I divided the camps into those more interested in the sports aspect of wrestling and those more interested in the storytelling aspect of wrestling, while admitting that there can be plenty of crossover. The point, of course, was that ROH seems primarily designed to appeal to those of us who care only about seeing good matches while leaving cold those of us who want to be emotionally involved in the product.
Episode 210 was another vehicle to feature matches that included New Japan Pro Wrestling stars. Those matches are always great and certainly pop live houses but unfortunately either cannot be or simply are not used to build to compelling payoffs. This week’s episode, however, took us in a different direction. From my perspective, it took us in a worse direction than just cold ROH/NJPW matchups with no real stakes. Episode 211 is a compilation of matches from August’s Field of Honor pay-per-view. If you bought Field of Honor back in August, there is nothing new for you here. If you didn’t, get ready for two very good matches that matter very little in the grand scheme of things.
Time Splitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley) vs. The Briscoes
This match was from the beginning of the push to get The Briscoes back in the tag scene after Jay lost the title to Jay Lethal. At ROH’s previous pay-per-view, Death Before Dishonor, The Briscoes had beaten RPG Vice in a fun match. Since ROH clearly wanted to start building momentum toward a Briscoes challenge for the tag belts, those matches were an easy way to get The Briscoes there while delivering quality, entertaining matches. Ultimately, though this match wasn’t on the level of the Briscoes/RPG Vice match from Death Before Dishonor, the goal was still accomplished: it was unquestionably fun and The Briscoes got another boost. Presently, they seem primed for a shot at the belts, particularly if those belts end up with War Machine, as I’ve been speculating.
This contest fell below the Death Before Dishonor 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 recovered some as the match neared the finish. Because of the slight but obvious sloppiness, the match never pulled me all the way in. ***
Instead of giving us the full match, ROH showed some highlights from the ROH Television Championship #1 Contender Gauntlet match from Field of Honor, which Takaaki Watanabe won. On next week’s episode, Watanabe will actually get his shot at champion Jay Lethal. And hey, we’re building to a match! Watanabe has been wonderful of late so I’m very much looking forward to that bout.
Roderick Strong vs. Kazuchika Okada
Roderick Strong delivered again in this match, like he nearly always does. And the credit for the performance here is mostly Roddy’s to take. He absolutely worked his ass off. 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
Final Thoughts: If you didn’t see Field of Honor, stop what you’re doing and go watch the Roddy/Okada match. It’s fantastic. But as I mentioned above, if you saw that show back in August, there is nothing here for you. It’s honestly a little bit of a bummer for me to pull these shows up and realize that they feature matches I’ve already seen but I know that the TV is not aimed at me. There are apparently casual ROH fans who probably didn’t buy the Field of Honor iPPV. If I tuned in and saw that main event, hell yes I’d tune back in the next week. But then I’d eventually lose interest because there’s not much for me to latch onto emotionally. That is important to me as a viewer, but perhaps I’m on an island here.
Next week, there is a sliver of hope that things get back on track. The aforementioned Lethal/Watanabe match occurs, which should be excellent. And it was announced during this show that Jay Briscoe will take on Adam Page in a No DQ match. That seems like a PPV match but I suppose only Final Battle remains and there will be something bigger for Jay Briscoe to do on that show. Either way, Briscoe/Page is a story you could almost care about if BJ Whitmer weren’t involved. Regardless, I’ll be watching. And here’s hoping Episode 212 starts an excellent, engrossing build toward Final Battle.