ROH brought in the stars of New Japan to celebrate the promotion’s 14th anniversary in style. Was the birthday blowout a bash to remember or a colossal dud?
Ring of Honor & New Japan Pro Wrestling
ROH 14th Anniversary iPPV
Sam’s Old Town Casino – Las Vegas, Nevada
February 26, 2016
ROH World Television Championship
Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Fish vs. Tomohiro Ishii ©
On the first night of the joint Ring of Honor and New Japan tour earlier this month, Tomohiro Ishii shocked the world in defeating Roderick Strong for the Television Championship. Perhaps more shocking was the ease that Ishii had dispatching Strong, followed by the blatant disregard for the mettle of the ROH roster.
Ishii might not respect the citizens of Honor, but they are also leery of him; Fish and Strong treated Ishii like a monster and showed him no quarter throughout the match. Whenever the Stone Pitbull pulled himself off the mat his opponents immediately made sure he went back down. Combine that with the fact that Ishii took more punishment than any man in the match and kept trucking, and he sent a clear message to the ROH roster: the new king of the TV division is an absolute monster. Those that wish to tread in his kingdom should do so lightly as Strong and Fish (who took the fall after a brainbuster) found out. ***1/2
Adam Page vs. BJ Whitmer
Placing Page vs. Whitmer on the pay-per-view card was an odd choice. The match was worked, and booked, like an episode of ROH television. Page ran roughshod over Whitmer, looking great until BJ heeled up and hit his former protege in his pebbles to pick up the 1-2-3. **1/4
Hirooki Goto vs. Dalton Castle
The Patriarch of Planet Peacock, Dalton Castle, established himself as one of ROH’s premier performers in 2015. Here in 2016, he looks to continue cementing himself in the upper echelon of the company. A win over Hirooki Goto in his highest profile win yet would go a long way in doing so.
Surprisingly, Castle got in quite a bit of his unique offense in on Goto and the former IWGP Intercontinental Champion on the ropes for most of the match. I’m not sure if this contest will figure much into Goto’s downward spiral angle in Japan, but it would be perfect because of his inability to easily dispatch the flamboyant Castle.
Even though Goto got the win via pin with a Shouten, it took him two tries to get Castle up and such a solid showing did a lot to raise Castle’s credibility as a competitor. ***1/4
Alex Shelley vs. Christopher Daniels
Four matches into the show it was obvious what the fans wanted and a Shelley vs. Daniels match was not it. The workrate in this match was solid given the talent in the ring. However, the angle that accompanied, Shelley’s quest to bring Chris Sabin back to the light, had little to no juice and the crowd sat on their hands for the majority of the match.Sabin eventually turned on the Daniels and Kazarian after their number advantaged finally took its toll on Shelley and cost his former stablemate the match. **
Shelley and Sabin embraced after the match and reunited the Motor City Machine Guns but the moment felt hollow in the shadow of their impending feud with The Addiction.
Briscoe Brothers vs. Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi
On a night where longtime ROH stalwarts struggled to capture the crowd’s imagination, the veteran quartet of Dem Boys, Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi provided a reminder that some acts never go out of style.
The Vegas crowd was ready to embrace the all star tag bout and the four competitors worked just hard enough to give them a solid match. Tanahashi is still not fully recovered from his shoulder injury and Elgin did the heavy lifting for his team, often literally lifting Tanahashi high in the for the pair’s delightful double team offense. It was also fun to see the former New Japan ace mix it up with the Briscoes; a matchup between a healthy Tanahashi and Jay Briscoe would be tremendous. Hell, that match up just might happen since the Briscoes lost to the Unbreakable Aces after a High Fly Flow. ***1/4
Kazuchika Okada vs. Moose
Even after ROH slowed down Moose’s god push in mid-2015, they exhibited a lot of faith in the big man by booking him in marquee mid-card matches. His latest challenge was the biggest of his career – the man at the top of the New Japan mountain, Kazuchika Okada. Moose more than held his own with the current IWGP Champion, bantering and wrestling him to a stalemate in the early going. Both men’s athleticism was on display, but the spot of the match went to Okada when jumped over the outside barricade onto Moose early in the match. Okada bagged the win after his death by dropkick spot and, of course, the Rainmaker. However, his less decorated opponent proved that he could hang with one of the best wrestlers of the world. ***1/2
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
the ELITE (Kenny Omega & Young Bucks) vs. KUSHIDA & ACH & Matt Sydal
When ROH and New Japan break bread, a dynamite six man tag usually takes place. The ELITE division of the Bullet Club and the make shift trio of ACH, KUSHIDA & Matt Sydal ensured that the tradition continued. The Jacksons and ACH took care of the requisite crazy dives; KUSHIDA and Sydal didn’t wow but put in solid performances. The wildcard was Kenny Omega and he delivered power moves that were absent when AJ Styles captained the Bullet Club team.
The action in this match was fast paced and back-and-forth aka. the usual. Neither team reinvented the wheel but they did put in a fantastic performances and it was a shame when an Omega One Winged Angel put the bout to bed. ****½
ROH World Tag Team Championship
All Night Express vs. War Machine ©
The semi main event featured a wild crowd brawl, plenty of plunder spots and a pair of kickouts from each teams respective finishers.However, unfortunate card placement and an exhausted crowd spoiled the hard work all four men. One can’t help but wonder if this match would have been better served on ROH television. **½
ROH World Championship
Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Jay Lethal ©
The main event of last year’s anniversary show was widely panned as a dumpster fire of a match. Thankfully, that was not the case for this year’s headlining match. The match had a novel approach for a three way: action involving all the combatants instead of the one man down, two men fight approach. The result was an action packed, albeit short, duel for the ROH crown. Kyle O’Reilly’s simultaneous triangle choke and ankle lock on his opponents was a tremendous spot and became a memorable moment when Cole saved the match by catching Lethal’s arm before he tapped out. The champ recovered from his near defeat and pinned Cole to retain his title after a double Lethal Injection. ***3/4
Final Thoughts: The initial buzz on this show is that it was a disappointment. I disagree with that verdict and find it a wee bit jaded. The main event and the six man tag were phenomenal, Ishii’s reign as Television Champion has the potential to be a fun little run going forward, and it was neat to watch Moose take another step down the road to stardom. I won’t say that you should rush out and buy this show, but if you are an ROH or New Japan fan this is a solid addition to your viewing library and a breeze to watch.