Last week, the main event of the ROH 14th Anniversary Show was set, and this week another potential blockbuster match was added to the card as well. The Top Prospect Tournament continues to deliver, as we wrapped up the first round of matches this week.
We haven’t seen the envelopes angle with Prince Nana for weeks now, and I’m certainly not complaining. Hopefully any remaining envelopes were lost by the Postal Service, never to be found again. I’ve enjoyed the added storytelling in ROH, but my biggest critique on that topic is that is must be episodic. I understand some of the unique challenges with that in comparison to WWE for example, but they need to significantly improve in that area to maximize their success. You can’t necessarily make changes on a whim when an angle is pre-taped for television well in advance. You can counter that by creating good stories, and standing by your creative direction by having them featured to a degree every week, for however long you’re taping in advance for. Good stories lose momentum when they are featured enough. The angle with Donovan Dijak breaking up from the House of Truth was hot. Then it all but disappeared from ROH TV. Once it returns, you essentially have to reinvest in the angle from scratch (similar to Raw, where they cut to a commercial break mid-match).
The new set presentation that ROH is using is fantastic. It’s very much WWE-like, and that’s a good thing in this case. Top quality production helps add legitimacy to any wrestling product that wants to be considered “big time.”
Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness are on commentary this week.
Frankie Kazarian vs. Alex Shelley
Kazarian was sans Daniels, as he’s still suspended for striking an official.
Chris Sabin joined the commentary team, and Kevin Kelly played up his relationship with Alex Shelley. Sabin said he doesn’t know why Kevin Kelly would bring up his friendship and tag team with Shelley because that’s in the past.
The match went about 12 minutes and was really a method to continue the tease between Sabin and Shelley. Sabin distracted Shelley a couple of times during the match, even throwing the small hammer to Kazarian that Daniels used in the attack where he was suspended. Shelley thwarted the attack, and hit Sliced Bread for the victory. Winner: Alex Shelley via pinfall
Analysis: A decent opening match. Nothing special, but the continuation of the Shelley and Sabin angle was key here. I’m still excited to see where this leads.
Joey “Diesel” Daddiego vs. Dalton Castle
Before the match they show a clip of Donovan Dijak leaving the House of Truth (these little things are critical when talent isn’t on a show, to keep the momentum of a story going). Truth gets on the mic, and says Silas Young has been trying to make them men for months but what they actually need is a daddy. Truth says “who’s your daddy” and “Diesel” says Joey Daddiego.
This was a quick, four minute match, with Dalton firmly in control. The match ended when Dalton hit the Bang-A-Rang for the pinfall victory.
After the match, Silas Young comes out with a mic and addresses The Boys by their real names, and reminds them what their parents named them. Suddenly, The Beer City Bruiser appears behind The Boys and holds them down. This distracts Castle, who is then attacked by Young from behind. Young hits Misery on Castle, and he’s out of it. Young says The Boys have disappointed him but have a choice; learn to be a man or be a boy. The Boys attack the Bruiser and Young, but the duo quickly gain control back over The Boys and leave them in the ring. Winner: Dalton Castle via pinfall
Analysis: I liked adding the Beer City Bruiser back into the picture. He’s a great character compliment to Young. Castle continues to be the most compelling character in ROH, and one of the best characters in all of professional wrestling today. His presentation, including attention to detail on the little things, is unbelievable.
First Round – Top Prospect Tournament
Leon St. Giovanni vs. Action Ortiz
Thus far in the Top Prospect Tournament, Ryan Fury and Punisher Martinez have advanced to the semi-finals. The two remaining first round matches are this one, and Jason Kincaid versus Lio Rush (who was my early pick to win).
The match itself was pretty basic. It was back and forth with the smaller St. Giovanni battling the much bigger Ortiz. It lasted four minutes, and ended when Action Ortiz hit the Kill Screen. Winner: Action Ortiz via pinfall
Analysis: I thought St. Giovanni’s fundamentals looked pretty impressive. Ortiz’s strikes were sloppy at points, but he played the big guy reasonably well.
Stokely Hathaway Calls Out IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada
At ringside, Kevin Kelly is with Stokely Hathaway, and he has something to say. Hathaway says 2016 will be the year of Moose (FYI – ROH hasn’t booked him that way to make me believe this so far). Hathaway says the formula they had wasn’t working (what is that, win all of your matches? – dumb line alert). He says this year they’re going to start out on top and there’s no better way to do that than by calling out the so-called best, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. Hathaway says he’s calling Okada out for the ROH 14th Anniversary Show.
Analysis: This would be a huge match for ROH, but it also places them into a precarious position. As I’ve noted in previous reviews, Moose has been losing too much. He hasn’t been protected enough for the commodity that he can be for ROH. I can’t see him beating Okada at this point, but I don’t think he can afford another loss anytime soon or he’s at serious risk of losing some of that mystique. I hope ROH is thinking about this. Don’t damage the mystique of the character just to put in a cool match in the short term.
ROH Tag Team Championship Match
War Machine vs. All Night Express
Before the match, they showed a clip of how the All Night Express received a title shot.
This was a pretty good, back-and-forth match, and included the classic ref bump spot. With the referee out of it, King and Titus heeled it up by grabbing a table, and positioning it in the corner of the ring. As they went to perform a double team move on Rowe into the table, he countered it, and slammed King into the table instead. Unfortunately for Rowe, the referee came to just as he did this, causing War Machine to be disqualified.
The two teams continued to brawl after the match as security struggled to pull them apart. Winner: All Night Express via disqualification
Analysis: It looks like this feud will continue and I think that makes sense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this match added to the 14th Anniversary Show.
Final Thoughts: Overall, this was a pretty good show. Dalton Castle is always entertaining, the Chris Sabin/Alex Shelley angle is intriguing, the Top Prospect Tournament is exciting, and the main event appears to be setting up something bigger.