RING OF HONOR
BEST IN THE WORLD 2016
JUNE 24, 2016
CABARRUS ARENA – CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA

Watch: PPV / ROHWrestling.com

Kyle O’Reilly DEF KAMAITACHI

Of course, Ring of Honor faithful are well aware of the talents of Kyle O’Reilly, but for the minority that were also aware of KAMAITACHI’s work in CMLL and New Japan this was a match that had show-stealer written all over it; a sentiment made all the more prominent when it was revealed as the opening match of the night. The styles of O’Reilly and KAMAITACHI (making his ROH pay-per view debut) make for a perfect marriage of technical chain wrestling, strong style and high-flying aerial attacks; a pairing that would easily fit right into the recent NJPW Best of the Super Juniors tournament.

That said there was a clear creative direction for the match that correctly took precedence over a simple indie-style exhibition. O’Reilly is already slotted as the number one contender for the ROH World title and the story was correctly centered on his status as the challenger in waiting. In what proved to be a classic body part match, O’Reilly focused his attention on the arm of the notorious daredevil, while KAMAITACHI honed in on the knee of his opponent.

Fans who entered the evening unaware what KAMITACHI is capable of bringing to the table soon found out; his running dropkick from the ring apron to the floor, a Swanton bomb on a standing O’Reilly and a missile-like suicide dive all made appearances.

Between well-placed high spots designed to allow KAMAITACHI to shine, O’Reilly played the role of a focused veteran to perfection. For his part, KAMAITACHI played the role of talented newcomer consistently half a step behind his grizzled opponent without appearing to be out of place in such a match.

The two certainly took some time to find a decent rhythm, but once found they managed to kick the match into another gear for a strong second half. After KAMAITACHI kicked out of a snug brain buster O’Reilly beautifully transitioned right into his patented cross arm bar for the submission win. ***

ACH DEF. Silas Young

The bruising physicality of Silas Young and the fast-paced athleticism of ACH was another stylistic marriage that presented an opportunity for a compelling match. A simple but strong build preempted the encounter as Young took umbrage with ACH’s propensity for video games, super heroes and Japanese anime; pastimes in which the self-proclaimed last real man of pro wrestling hardly approves. Oddly enough, the fire that was present in both men throughout the build was non-existent once they stepped into the ring together. Both men appeared to be content going through the motions, getting their respective ‘shit in’ and presenting a pedestrian babyface versus heel match. Young dictated the pace for most of the match; countering ACH’s high-risk arsenal and squashing consecutive comeback spots, before ACH created an opening and landed his Midnight Star 450 splash for the win.

The lack of any further story development once the match concluded suggests this was just a one-off confrontation, which makes little sense considering the television time the angle was awarded. Nothing in the match itself left the audience clamoring for more so perhaps that is for the better. ** ½

Jay White was shown sitting in the front row of the audience and Kevin Kelly explains that the promising New Japan Pro Wrestling Young Lion will soon make his Ring of Honor debut.

Mark Briscoe DEF Roderick Strong

The atmosphere was absolutely electric as Roderick Strong made his way to the ring; a milestone moment as Mr. ROH himself prepared to enter his last PPV match with the promotion most associated with his career.

Actually, that isn’t what happened at all. In what was one of the more confusing scenes of the night, an inexplicable malaise appeared to hinder what should have been presented as a major aspect of the show. A brief ‘Thank You, Roddy’ chant was quickly shouted down by the pop from Jay Briscoe’s entrance and that was that. No heavy-hearted pre-match promo, no dramatic fanfare, no overwhelming show of support from the live audience that brought the show to a halt – just the next match on a steadily progressing pay-per view on a Friday night.

Strong maintained his heel gimmick as the match began, refusing to shake Briscoe’s hand as the Code of Honor requires. Dr. ROH, as Briscoe now calls himself, earned another pop after Strong attempted to grab a handful of hair to gain an advantage only to find that Briscoe shaved his head and placed a wig under his dew rag. Yes, you’re reading this correctly; a wig spot received a larger pop than Strong. Ring of Honor in 2016 ladies and gentleman.

Strong’s lack of respect for the younger of the two Briscoe brothers was the focus of the match; a meaningful storyline had the PWG-sized guerilla not been sitting squarely in the middle of the ring. Once underway the match, not surprisingly, was above average. As two of the longest tenured ROH performers currently working within the promotion, Strong and Briscoe put on a quintessential ROH-style match, highlighted by a dueling suplex spot that saw both men counter multiple suplex attempts before Briscoe finally got the edge and sent Strong for the ride. After kicking out of the Sick Kick, Briscoe landed one of his own before connecting a Fisherman Buster for the clean pin fall victory.

After the match the crowd finally came to the realization that it was truly the end of the road and serenaded Strong as you would expect them to do. The match was certainly useful in allowing Briscoe to shine, but the already established star is hardly lacking a connection with the audience, making everything from the pairing itself to the match structure and presentation more than a little suspect. The atmosphere did not reflect the gravity of the moment whatsoever. ***¼

Bullet Club (Adam Cole & The Young Bucks) DEF Moose (with Stokley Hathaway) & War Machine 6-Man Tornado Tag Team Match

Prior to the match Nigel McGuiness explained that Bullet Club members Adam Cole and the brothers Jackson were not suspended for their actions at Global Wars for three reasons; the guys in the locker room would rather have the chance to get revenge in the ring, an increased security presence had been established at ringside and most importantly, Bullet Club merchandise is flying off the shelves and a suspension would be a foolish waste of potential profits. The moral authority of ROH Mr. McGuiness is not. In addition to increased security, Bullet Club members have been warned that any future violence against ROH officials will be accompanied with a six month suspension without pay (no word on merchandise sales).

If you were expecting to see The Young Bucks fly from one side of the Cabarrus Arena to the other while working with the significantly larger Moose and War Machine, then you were mostly disappointed. Instead, the Faux Elite (as labeled by guest commentator, Matt Taven) largely dominated the action but for a few brief high spots reserved for the so-called babyfaces (the most impressive being a Moose moonsault on all the Bullet Clubers, which they quickly no-sold before seamlessly transitioning into a triple superkick spot).

The match maintained a quick pace throughout in typical Young Bucks fashion. Both members of War Machine missed consecutive high spots that succeeded in making them look as foolish as Moose before Stokley Hathaway fell victim to a triple superkick on the ring apron (apparently the threat of suspension did not carry over to managers).

Ultimately the Bucks landed a 5 Star Meltzer Driver on Moose and allowed Cole to make the cover for pin. War Machine continues to flounder in obscurity and Moose has one foot out the door while Bullet Club remains the hottest act of the promotion so the style of the match and the outcome should come as a surprise to no one. ***

The Addiction DEF Motor City Machine Guns

The story of this match was two middle-aged has former standard bears past their prime (The Addiction) being challenged by a younger breed of tag team athletes (MCMG) ready to take the tag division to the next level. The only problem being Chris Saban and Alex Shelly have been around for almost a decade, making the angle come off as silly.

After several minutes of dry and meaningless wrestling (capped with a Saban suicide dive on both members of The Addiction that received little more than a gold clap rom the audience) KAMAITACHI came running down to ringside and inexplicably attacked an unsuspecting Jay White, who was still sitting in the front row. Amidst the chaos of the impromptu attack, The Addiction gained the upper hand with low blows missed by referee, Todd Sinclair and scored a pin after hitting the Best Meltzer Ever on Saban.

The match set up an intriguing singles match between White and KAMAITACHI, which should do wonders for the tag team division. **

BJ Whitmer DEF Steve Corino Unsanctioned Fight Without Honor

The feud between BJ Whitmer and Steve Corino finally came to a head after over 14 months of build.  Both men came to the ring wearing white; cryptic foreshadowing of the bloody mess they’d both soon become.

Less than a minute into the fight Corino had a tooth knocked clean from his mouth before Whitmer went to work on his surgically repaired neck. Corino would return the favor by taking out Whitmer’s surgically repaired knee. Any semblance of a wrestling match soon dissipated in favor of a violent brawl in the style of mid-1990s ECW, complete with E-C-W chants from the bloodthirsty audience, ‘hard way’ color, beer bottles over the head and shards of glass to the forehead. Who did what to who was not important; both men were a bloody mess as they harnessed the evil present in their souls to inflict as much pain on the other as their bodies would allow.

In many ways this was the perfect presentation of pro wrestling; a simple conflict between two hated rivals with concise commentary serving as an appropriate soundtrack to the carnage in the ring. On the flip side, the extreme violence of the match greatly outweighed the enthusiasm for the story and the players involved. This disconnect between the storytellers and their audience made for an odd dynamic that resonated throughout the entire arena for the duration of the match.

Things took a turn for the worse when the lights in the arena went out (completing the resurrection of ECW gimmicks). When the lights came back Kevin Sullivan was standing in the ring; the darkness in the hearts of Corino and Whitmer having manifested…whatever it is we’re supposed to view Sullivan as these days. Whitmer’s evil reigned supreme as Sullivan smashed the Golden Spike into Corino’s lacerated face, allowing the heel to earn the win. *3/4

Bobby Fish DEF Dalton Castle World Television Title

This match was identified by many as another show-stealer candidate, but like O’Reilly and KAMAITACHI that did not materialize. Unlike the opening match of the card, Fish and Castle were not restricted by a greater narrative needed for storyline development, but rather their own creative choices.

Both men are terrific workers, it would be unfair and inaccurate to label the match as poor, however, the glaring lack of any story whatsoever made the semi-main event feel like just another match. Castle, for his part, appeared to forego much of his tried and true technical wrestling in favor of a more aggressive style that took the action outside the ring more than it should have been.

Once the action returned to the ring Fish was thrown on his head in a mistimed suplex spot that resulted in the loudest reaction from the audience of the entire match. Thankfully Fish appeared to be ok and soon reversed Castle’s Bang-a-rang into a cradle pin and retention of his TV title. **3/4

As everyone settled in for the main event Caprice Coleman, Kenny King and Red Titus unceremoniously appeared at the top of the entrance ramp to put a damper on the excitement. Coleman explained that all three have been over looked, under rated and grossly under paid. They’ve united and will now be recognized as, The Cabinet. Titus then explained how it pains him to live in a time when a world champion does not have proper pectoral definition and tag team champions have no abs. King, the chairmen of championships, concluded by putting all ROH champions on notice; The Cabinet has arrived to make wrestling great again.

Jay Lethal DEF Jay Briscoe World Heavyweight Title Match

These guys came to bring it and wasted no time with grand theatrics or a nuanced prologue; the narrative of their original match at last year’s Best in the World event was enough to set the table. They went right at each other from the get go; physical determination underscored by a healthy respect of one another was the story told and it worked.

After Taylor Hendrix got herself removed from ringside Lethal was once again forced to go at it alone, just like last year. And like last year, the champion proved more than capable of handling himself as he continues to grow his legacy as the preeminent American champion of his time. The spot of the night came when Lethal delivered a devastating cutter from the ring apron to the floor as the former champion lay vulnerable beneath the bottom rope.

As the match forged on neither champion nor challenger proved capable of sustaining a lasting advantage; as the two went back and forth Briscoe shocked Lethal and the crowd with a Lethal Injection of his own quickly followed by a Jay Driller for an amazing false finish spot that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Moments later Lethal hit another cutter, this time from the top rope, before transitioning into the Lethal Injection for the clean win in the center of the ring. *** ¼