The conflict between The Bullet Club & ROH continued on this week’s episode of ROH TV. At the request of ROH World Champion Jay Lethal in the opening minutes of the episodes, the scheduled main event of The Briscoes & The Young Bucks was changed to a Six-Man tag that would see Jay Lethal team up with The Briscoes to take on the Bullet Club trio of Adam Cole & The Young Bucks. This ended up being a pretty good six-man tag. Mark Briscoe got taken out midway through the match, after falling off the top rope onto a table on the floor (which didn’t break). This led to an interesting situation, where former rivals Jay Lethal & Jay Briscoe were left alone against The Bullet Club. In the end, Lethal would get the win for Team ROH after a rollup, but the real story was what happened after the match. After Adam Cole gave Jay Briscoe his own finishing move, the Jay Driller, on a steel chair, The Bullet Club delivered triple superkicks multiple times to the ROH World Champion, before shaving Lethal’s head bald.
As a whole, I would say that this was a good continuation of the Bullet Club vs. ROH storyline from last week, where they injured Kyle O’Reilly after multiple attacks. I think the segment at the end came off well, and I think Kevin Kelly’s delivery on commentary here was much better than his delivering during the attacks on Kyle O’Reilly last week. As far as Lethal getting his head shaved goes, we knew this was coming, as not only was it a major spoiler from the TV tapings, but Lethal had since made appearances with his newly shaved head at ROH live events and on ROH promotional material. After what happened last week, you knew Adam Cole was out to do something drastic, and this certainly fit the bill. This was actually the second time that Cole has cut someone’s hair in ROH, as he cut off Michael Elgin’s signature mullet in the buildup to Best In The World 2014. Honestly, I’m not one to judge when it comes to a wrestler getting their head shaved. I might be upset about it, depending on if it’s someone I particularly like, but I usually get used to the new look in time. With Lethal here, seeing him bald just looks…..weird. It just makes Lethal feel different. Not a good kind of different, or a bad kind of different, just…..different. For me, it’s as though, with the shaved head, his presence has just changed. I’m not sure if other people understand what I’m getting at, but it’s definitely a noticeable change. It’ll certainly add more tension to the build towards the Jay Lethal/Adam Cole ROH World Title Match at Death Before Dishonor XIV, so it does help in that regard. Maybe I’ll get used to this change, but for now, seeing Lethal bald feels just so strange.
While I’m on the subject of The Bullet Club (and to an extent, The Young Bucks), I want to bring up something interesting I noticed this week. ROH’s attempt to make The Bullet Club into a monster heel faction has really muddied the waters when it comes to certain babyface/heel alignments. Simply put, at this point in their careers, The Bullet Club as a faction, and The Young Bucks as a tag team, aren’t going to get booed by any crowd in crowd in North America. Both entities have become so popular that they’re going to get cheered no matter what they do. That was further enforced on this week’s TV. Despite ROH pushing The Bullet Club as despicable heels, they still came out to a pretty positive reaction when it was time for the main event. This heavy push of The Bullet Club as heels has also left a number of people on the ROH roster in a precarious situation. The Addiction (who actually had a fun promo on TV), The Cabinet (who as had a nice little promo on TV this week), and Matt Taven, all of whom are heels, expressed having issues with The Young Bucks, or The Bullet Club in general this past week, whether than be in YouTube promos, on TV segments, or on commentary during matches.
The Young Bucks are supposed to be heels that are trying to take over the company, but they get cheered. At the same time, half of the heel roster is seemingly gunning for them, which makes them the natural babyfaces. Part of me really believes that this decision to make The Bullet Club into a solidly heel faction in ROH was a big mistake. They’re never going to get booed, so why try to make them heels? In a funny way, ROH is actually in the same situation that WWE has been in with Roman Reigns, but with the desired results of the companies being the exact opposite. WWE wants to push Roman Reigns as this mega-babyface, but over the last two years, the fans haven’t reacted as such. Conversely, ROH has been trying to push The Bullet Club as mega-heels, but the fans really haven’t accepted that, and continue to cheer them on ROH TV, despite their despicable actions. Obviously, this example in ROH really isn’t as high profile as the WWE/Roman Reigns example, but it’s something that I think more people should be talking about.
The other major happening on ROH TV this week involved Moose. After squashing “P-Dog” Mike Posey and his “Get-Along Gang” (I have no idea how that act is allowed on ROH shows, especially the TV show), Donovan Dijak & Prince Nana came out and made a challenge for a match with Moose, which he & Stokely Hathaway accepted. They actually went on to have a very good match, with some really incredible moves and great exchanges between the two, and in the end, Dijak would get the victory with Feast Your Eyes. Following the match, Prince Nana turned on his protégé, Stokely Hathaway (people forget that those two were linked for a time in ROH), as he had Dijak take Hathaway out with a huge boot to the face (the same thing he did to Truth Martini a few months ago)
So obviously Dijak’s attack was meant to write Stokely Hathaway out of ROH, as he’s now firmly entrenched in Evolve. With regards to Moose, here we have another instance of ROH TV not really being accurate timing wise, as he has now appeared on the last two episodes of ROH TV after making his TNA debut on July 12, which was almost three weeks ago. Now while some might jump on this, I really don’t think ROH deserved a ton of slack here. Moose’s situation at the time of this TV taping (June 25) was very up in the air, as it really wasn’t certain where he would end up (after he seemed to initially be NXT bound). Could ROH have put Moose’s appearances on earlier episodes? Sure, but as far as “ROH TV not being current” goes, I think this is easily one of the more forgivable (or at least, understandable) instances.
Finally, we got a brief continuation of the Steve Corino/BJ Whitmer/Kevin Sullivan saga, with a promo featuring Corino & Sullivan in what appeared to be some sort of dream sequence. Sullivan basically said that Corino was “ruining their universe” and tells Corino that he knows what he needs to do. What little interest I had in this feud is fading fast, which just goes to show that this program should have ended at Best In The World, but is inexplicably continuing.
Here are my match ratings for this week’s episode of ROH TV:
- Moose vs. “P-Dog” Mike Posey: N/R
- Donovan Dijak (with Prince Nana) vs. Moose (with Stokely Hathaway): ***1/2
- Six-Man Tag – The Bullet Club (Adam Cole & The Young Bucks) vs. ROH World Champion Jay Lethal & The Briscoes: ***1/2
As a whole, I’d say it was a good episode. It continued the storyline between Jay Lethal & The Bullet Club, while also being a pretty strong showcase for Donovan Dijak, who looked impressive in his win over Moose.
ROH News & Notes:
– More matches were announced this week for Death Before Dishonor XIV Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Women of Honor Match between Kelly Klein & Sumie Sakai will be taking place before the actual PPV. I assume that this will be taped for ROH’s “Women of Honor Wednesday’s” on YouTube. The bigger story regarding the weekend is that a number of matches were announced for the TV tapings on August 20. Perhaps the most interesting match announcement is that Katsuyori Shibata will be challenging for the ROH World TV Title, facing the winner of the Bobby Fish vs. Mark Briscoe title match from the PPV the night before. If anything, this will be interesting just to see what the result is. A lot has been made about New Japan stars not losing in ROH, but would the company but the ROH World TV Title on a New Japan star for the second time this year? I think this will be one of the most interesting results to look out for coming out of this weekend. A victory by Shibata would make him a double champion, as he’s the current holder of the NEVER Openweight Title, but as we all saw recently in RevPro in the UK, Shibata is capable of losing matches clean. The result of this match will definitely be telling of where the ROH/New Japan relationship stands.
– The rest of the announcements for the TV tapings in Las Vegas on August 20th were all tag team matches. The most interesting of those is a match that will see current IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The Briscoe battle the first-time ever pairing of Lio Rush & Jay White. Those two recently had a singles match at a recent live event in Baltimore, which I heard was very good. Putting them together here as a team is very interesting, as ROH has a track record in recent years of putting opponents together as a tag team (such as War Machine, and ACH/Matt Sydal). If they have a great showing here against the greatest tag team in the history of ROH, then I would be all in favor of continuing this new pairing. I honestly think it has the potential to be one of the better matches of the weekend. The other announced matches for the TV tapings don’t look quite as promising, to say the least. The Addiction & Kamaitachi will be taking on the trio of Roppongi Vice & Toru Yano (representing CHAOS). Now I actually don’t think this will be too bad. It is going to be great? Not a chance, but I think it has the potential to be pretty decent. Plus, it’s a TV match, so I really can’t get too upset by it. It’s certainly a better matchup for this CHAOS trio compared to their PPV match against The Bullet Club. Speaking of which, The All-Night Express vs. The Guerrillas of Destiny was announced for this set of TV tapings. This match looks bad on paper, and I have no doubt that this will be bad. The Guerrillas of Destiny are not a good tag team, and while I really don’t hate ANX that much, their ridiculous segment at the last PPV soured me on them a lot. This has the potential to be the worst match in ROH this year, and I have no idea why anyone thought booking this match was a good idea.
– Another addition to the Field of Honor 2016 will see Michael Elgin defend his IWGP Intercontinental Title against Donovan Dijak. This is the first time that the IWGP Intercontinental Title has been defended in ROH. Personally, I think this has the potential to be a great match. These two had a pair of singles matches towards the end of last year that were pretty good, but on a bigger show, with such a prestigious championship on the line, I think they can definitely produce their best match yet. Elgin has been awesome since he’s joined New Japan, and Dijak has been impressive everywhere he’s wrestled (not just ROH), so I have no doubt that these two will deliver. This announcement also continues the interesting trend for ROH in 2016, where the live events that are taped for DVD/VOD are significantly more interesting on paper than what they’ve put on PPV’s in 2016. When comparing the cards for Death Before Dishonor XIV and Field of Honor, the latter’s card easily blows the former’s card out of water. It certainly makes you question why Field of Honor isn’t be shown on PPV, because I think more people would be willing to spend money on that show, compared to actual PPV a week prior.
– It was announced last week that Jushin “Thunder” Liger would be appearing at the Reloaded Tour Live Event in Duluth, Georgia on September 24th. This week, after a challenge was issued, Dalton Castle vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger was officially announced. If you’ll recall, these two had a match during the Global Wars TV tapings in May 2015, which was a fun TV match at the time. I think this match has the potential to be a little bit better. Castle was still relatively young in his ROH career at the time, and he’s become a bigger entity in the promotion since then. Liger has shown us on countless times that he can still go, despite this age. I think this could turn out to be pretty good. As for the result, I’m hoping that Castle gets the win here. If any of the New Japan talents can lose, it’s Liger, and since he did beat Castle last year, hopefully Castle (who could use this big win) gets to taste victory this time around.
– CMLL’s Dragon Lee will be making his ROH debut at the All-Star Extravaganza VIII PPV in Lowell, Massachusetts. It had been speculated for months that ROH was attempting to build a relationship with CMLL, who also have a relationship with New Japan. We finally started to see signs last month that this potential partnership is progressing, with Stuka Jr. making an appearance at a ROH TV tapings in Philadelphia. Now ROH is bringing in the man who set the wrestling world on fire with his critically acclaimed matches against Kamaitachi in CMLL. This is obviously a really exciting announcement. Dragon Lee making his ROH debut certainly adds immediate interest to the All-Star Extravaganza VIII PPV. As far as who he could face at the PPV, I think people would be ecstatic if they booked Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi, but I’m sure he’ll have a great match no matter who he faces.
– A few more shows were added to ROH’s calendar for the end of 2016. A TV taping on October 29 in Baltimore, Maryland (billed as “Road To ‘Final Battle 2016’ ”) was announced. Then, just a week later, Texas will be playing host to the 2016 edition of ROH’s annual Survival of the Fittest Tournament. Once again, the tournament will be split into two nights. The first night (featuring the qualifying matches) will take place on November 3rd in Arlington, Texas at the Arlington Convention Center, while Night 2 (featuring the actual six-man Finals) will take place on November 4th in the familiar Shrine Auditorium in San Antonio, Texas, which is a location that has become a regular stop on the ROH circuit since 2013. As far as Survival of the Fittest is concerned, some people might be upset by the fact that it’s been a two night tournament over the last few years, but it really doesn’t bother me that much. While the tradition has been for the tournament to take place in one night, an issue I’ve always had with that is that the qualifying matches can get shortchanged on time, and end up being not as good as they could be, since the winners are wrestling a second match later on. On more than one occasion, I would get excited to see some of the qualifiers, only to end up disappointed, as they end up being on the shorter side, and not quite the matches I was expecting, quality-wise. I particularly like this new format, as it allows those qualifying matches to actually develop into matches that aren’t crunched for time. With regards to the tournament itself, with all of the rumors surrounding the futures of many current ROH talents, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.