ROH All-Star Extravaganza VIII
September 30th, 2016
Lowell Memorial Auditorium – Lowell, Massachusetts


ROH World TV Title – Bobby Fish def. Donovan Dijak

Dijak came out not only with Prince Nana, but with Brian Fury and a number of other trainees. As you would have expected, Dijak got a big reception from what was basically a hometown crowd for him. I was really unsure how this match would play out, given the obvious size difference along with the contrasting styles. The match was pretty solid, but I don’t think it was quite as good as some of Fish’s previous title defenses. I was definitely his weakest PPV title defense, but as I said, this match was still relatively good. Right from the beginning Fish went after Dijak’s long legs, and continued to do so throughout the match. Dijak had his moments here as well, and even hit his finisher, Feast Your Eyes, on Fish at one point. Fish counted a second Feast Your Eyes attempt into a choke, which eventually led to Fish retaining the title after Dijak passed out. Again, the match was good, but I was expecting a little bit better. I didn’t mind the finish too much (as it played off how Fish beat Tomohiro Ishii), but I think it would have been better if Fish won with a leg submission, since he was working on Dijak’s legs for most of the match. Honestly, I would have preferred if Dijak won the title here, but this result does make me a little more intrigued going forward, with regards to who will eventually dethrone Fish. ***1/4

#1 Contender’s Four Corner Survival – Colt Cabana & Dalton Castle def. The All-Night Express, Keith Lee & Shane Taylor, & War Machine

Before the match officially started, The Cabinet did their version of the Colin Kaepernick protest, which they started doing on some of the recent live events. As I mentioned in one of my recent ROH columns, I honestly don’t have an opinion on the whole Colin Kaepernick protest, so I’m not going to comment on it.

As for the match itself, it was about what I was expecting. It was a little slow to get going, and there was a weird spot where, somehow, Colt Cabana & Dalton Castle we both the legal men. I’ve always found that particular spot, which tends to happen in these multi-team matches, to be strange, but whatever. Once War Machine started brawling with Keith Lee & Shane Taylor, the match did pick up a bit. I think if there was one person who really impressed in this match, it was Keith Lee. He got a big chance to shine here, and he looked very good, hitting huge power moves and even a running dive over the top rope to the floor. In the end, however, Dalton Castle would pick up the win for his team after hitting the Bang-A-Rang on Rhett Titus. As I mentioned in the preview of this PPV, I really like this Colt Cabana/Dalton Castle team, and honestly, I think they were the best team to go with here. War Machine are definitely continuing their feud with Keith Lee & Shane Taylor, so they basically cancelled each other out here, and with ANX as part of the Six-Man Tag Team Title Tournament, the Colt Cabana/Dalton Castle team was really the best pick. Is it a little annoying that Castle is being pushed towards a singles title? Yeah, but I still think this team will be a good addition to the tag team division. ***

Dragon Lee def. Kamaitachi

I still can’t believe that we got to see these two go at it in a ROH ring. If you’re someone who has seen the matches these two have had in CMLL, or their match in New Japan earlier this year, then these two delivered exactly the kind of craziness that you would have expected. However, if this was your first time seeing these two wrestle each other, then you probably blown away by some of the incredibly insane stuff that these two pulled off. From start to finish, this was absolutely fantastic. Both guys had a complete disregard for their own bodies, and just kept hitting big move after big move after big move. The craziest thing of all, however, was that while this match was absolutely fantastic, they’ve had better matches. As amazing as this was, it was probably one of their weaker matches, and that just speaks to both performers and the unbelievable chemistry they have with one another. Were there some clunky spots here and there? Absolutely, but even so, these two delivered another incredible match in their rivalry. Dragon Lee ended up scoring the victory in this one. This is a match that you definitely need to go out of you way to see. ****½

In a small note about Dragon Lee, it was quietly confirmed by Dave Meltzer on Twitter last night that Dragon Lee will be facing Bobby Fish at the TV Tapings later tonight (as I type this), and I wouldn’t be shocked if that was for the ROH World TV Title.

Kyle O’Reilly def. “The Hangman” Adam Page

As Kevin Kelly & Steve Corino pointed out a number of times on commentary, Page’s role in this match was to basically block Kyle O’Reilly from getting a shot at Adam Cole’s ROH World Title. I thought this was fine. Both guys were solid here, but honestly, despite the story behind this match (which I don’t have any issues with), this just felt like a match designed to get O’Reilly on the card. I feel like this match would have served its purpose better if O’Reilly had (more-or-less) dominated Page and beaten him in five or six minutes, instead of going back & forth for nearly ten minutes the way they did. It would have really made O’Reilly look strong heading into Final Battle, where he will (presumably) be facing Adam Cole. I’m a little disappointed that Page was put in this spot a month after his big win over Jay Briscoe, but I think people forget that this is sort of Page’s role now as a member of The Bullet Club. He’s the guy that people have to get through to get to bigger names in the group, like an Adam Cole or a Kenny Omega. Plus, something that I find a bit contradictory about Adam Page is that while people were complaining about his usage on this card (a totally valid argument that I don’t disagree with at all), some still think he’s not a good wrestler (which I disagree with), so why would you be upset about a guy who you don’t think is that good not getting a further push? Anyway, O’Reilly wins this match in rather anticlimactic fashion, after he finally got Page to tap out to an armbar. Probably the most forgettable match on the show, but it was still relatively solid. ***

After the match, Page attacked O’Reilly. He wrapped O’Reilly’s arm in a chair, and threw him into one of the ring posts as Bobby Fish came out to chase him off. I thought it was a little weird to do this angle here, since O’Reilly won’t be getting his title shot until December.

Kevin Kelly did a quick interview with Silas Young (who defeated EVIL & Will Ferrara in a Triple Threat Match on the pre-show that will probably be showing up on ROH’s YouTube channel at some point) on the entrance stage. They mention how Young and his regular tag team partner, The Beer City Bruiser, couldn’t find a third man for the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Title Tournament, but then move on quickly to Young’s upcoming shot at the ROH World Title in Lakeland, Florida on 10/22. Of course, he earned that shot after winning the Honor Rumble in Lockport, New York on 9/17. Even though they weren’t able to fit Silas Young on the card, I still appreciate the fact that they featured him in some fashion. He cut a solid promo here, hyping up his upcoming title opportunity. I also liked the fact that they took time on PPV to raise awareness for a title match happening on a live event.

Before our next match, which was the first in the tournament to crown the first-ever ROH Six-Man Tag Team Champions, we were finally given a graphic of the brackets for the tournament (with all eight teams) which will be concluding at Final Battle.

ROH Six-Man Tag Team Title Tournament – First Round – ACH, KUSHIDA, & Jay White def. The Briscoes & Toru Yano

KUSHIDA was a late addition to this match, replacing Lio Rush, who is now on an extended tour of Europe. Also, ACH is now being announced as “Super ACH”, which is an addition to his name that he got while on tour recently with Pro-Wrestling NOAH. I thought this match was very good. For me, it didn’t fall below or surpass the expectations I had for it going in. It was exactly the match was I was expecting. Of course, we did see some Toru Yano shenanigans. Could this match have been better is someone other than Toru Yano was in here? Yeah, but honestly, I thought he was fine in this match. Plus, as I mentioned in the preview of this PPV, you still had five guys in here who are all awesome, so it was going to be good no matter what. From start to finish, this match was a lot of fun. Everyone looked good, and I just thought it was really entertaining. ACH got the win for his team after hitting the Midnight Star (his version of the 450 Splash) on Yano. Having the ACH/KUSHIDA/Jay White team advance was the right call, as The Briscoes & Toru Yano really don’t need these new titles. ***1/2

Jay Lethal def. IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito

EVIL was with Naito at ringside for this match. One of the funniest moments of the night actually took place as Jay Lethal was making his way down to the ring, when Naito just kicked Bobby Cruise right in the gut. It was actually pretty hilarious, and they showed a replay several times.

Of course, as I mentioned both in the preview for this PPV and in my ROH column, the setup for this match was really backwards. ROH has been pushing Lethal as the good guy in this breakup with Los Ingobernables de Japon, but if you saw the match from ROH TV a few weeks ago where the breakup actually occurred (a Six-Man Tag with Lethal & LIJ against The Bullet Club), it was painfully obvious that Lethal was acting like a total dick towards Naito & EVIL. They had every right to leave him high and dry in that situation. Still, with all of that being said, these two still managed to have a really good match. It was definitely a step up from singles they had at Global Wars last year for the ROH TV Title, back when Lethal was still a heel and Naito was still a clear babyface. Lethal was great here, as he always is in big PPV matches, and while I don’t think Naito went all out here, he was still very good here. Something that, I believe, Naito has in common with Kenny Omega is that you can tell whether they’re going to full throttle or not by the gear. Omega has his colorful gear vs. his all-black gear, while Naito has the “suit & cool mask” vs. the “hoodie and hat” combo, and Naito came out with the latter on this show. I don’t know if that’s the case 100% of the time, but it’s something I’ve noticed.

Anyway, back to the match, EVIL did get involved when he pulled the referee out of the ring pretty forcefully (some would complain about there not being a DQ, but if you’ve followed New Japan over the last few years, you will know people have gotten away with far worse). However, Lethal was able to fight both of them off, and the match continued. I can handle interference if it doesn’t directly lead to the finish, as was the case here. We got some nice counters and nearfalls, but in the end, Jay Lethal hit the Lethal Injection on Tetsuya Naito and pinned the IWGP Intercontinental Champion clean in the middle of the right. This was a pretty big moment for the ROH/NJPW relationship, as it essentially confirms that if you’re a New Japan guy not named Okada or Tanahashi, you can lose. Lethal’s victory would almost guarantee him a shot at the IWGP Intercontinental Title at some point down the line (Power Struggle?). Lethal looked really strong in this match, essentially overcoming the odds John Cena style to win clean. If anything, I think Naito actually looked weak with this result, as he had the interference from EVIL, and still lost. That’s really important to note, especially since he’s the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. While I don’t think this match was great, it was still very good, and set up a future title match between the two. ***3/4

ROH World Title – Adam Cole def. Michael Elgin

This is a rematch from the main event of ROH’s first live PPV, Best In The World 2014, where Elgin defeated Cole to win the ROH World Title. They showed a really good backstage promo from Cole before the match where he went over his history with “Big Mike” and vowed to right the wrong from that title match two years ago. I noticed after the fact that a lot of people didn’t like this match, but honestly, I thought it was great. Elgin was a house of fire early, but then they told a nice story with Cole going after Elgin’s knee, which had been targeted by Tetsuya Naito & EVIL during the recent Destruction Tour in New Japan (and the commentators made sure to mention that). To me, this match was actually right on par with their match from Best In The World 2014, but their were key differences. While this match didn’t have the amount of drama, build (Cole shaving off Elgin’s mullet and going after his wife), or excitement that surrounded their original title encounter (Elgin finally winning the ROH World Title on ROH’s first live PPV), I thought this match had a lot more (and better) action, and lacked all of the interference and chicanery that their first big title match had. That’s why I liked this match so much. The predictability hurt it a bit (Cole, of course, retained), but as I mentioned in the preview of this PPV, as long as the match is really good, the predictability doesn’t matter to me. While some might see me as the outlier on this match, I really enjoyed it. ****

ROH World Tag Team Titles – Ladder War VI – The Young Bucks def. The Addiction & The Motor City Machine Guns

When this match first got announced, I was pretty excited for it. Everyone knows the history of Ladder Wars in ROH. Along with the Fight Without Honor, it’s one of the most brutal matches the company can possibly put on. Regardless of what you think of ROH in 2016, you have to give them a ton of credit for really protecting this match over the years. So many big match types have been bastardized over the years with over usage of forcing them via gimmick PPV’s. To me, the Ladder War is one of the only matches left in professional wrestling that still feels special. When the time finally came for this match, I was still very much excited, but a growing feeling of concern really grew within me. I remembered how some of the participants in the match (I think it was The Young Bucks, but don’t quote me on that) were looking for this match to be at the level of the original TLC matches with The Dudley Boyz, The Hardys, and Edge & Christian. Not only was that setting the bar incredibly high, but it just reminded me of all of the crazy stuff those guys dive over fifteen years ago, and how all six were never the same after that match. I was concerned for all six guys going into this match, and legitimately afraid of what might happen, given the high bar they had set for themselves.

Simple words cannot do this match justice, but I will do my best to convey my thoughts to you. This was one of the most insane spectacles I’ve ever witnessed in a wrestling ring. I knew it was going to get wild. I knew it was going to get crazy. However, I never expected it be as wild or as crazy as turned out to be. All six guys put their bodies on the line here, risking life & limb just so they could be called the ROH World Tag Team Champions. There were so many incredible spots throughout this match, from four separate tables being broken in a thirty second span, to both The Addiction & The Motor City Machine Guns picking up a ladder with Nick Jackson on it and dumping him to the outside through a table, to the final stretch of the match, where Daniels took a backdrop of the top of one ladder onto a ladder bridge, and Kazarian at a Super IndyTaker through a table, with Nick Jackson coming off the top of the ladder. Again, words cannot do this match justice, as it needs to be seen to be believed (because of that, I’m intentionally not sharing any gifs of spots from the actual match, as I encourage people to see the insanity for themselves).

While the big story was that The Young Bucks won the ROH World Tag Team Titles for a second time, the MVP of this match had to be Christopher Daniels. He was busted open early on in the match, and took a ton of crazy bumps in this match. Putting all the turmoil backstage and the growing political role Daniels may have aside, you have to give the man all of the credit in the world for his performance here. The fact that Daniels is doing this stuff, at FORTY SIX YEARS OLD, is insane. What’s even crazier is the fact that he doesn’t need to be doing this. As we all know, he’s still a very good wrestler for his age, and doesn’t need to rely on this hardcore stuff. In that amazing promo he cut a few days before the PPV, he said he would risk it all to keep these titles, and out of all six guys in this match, he put his body through the most punishment.

As amazing as this match was, there were a few minor complaints. Some might be upset by the involvement of Kamaitachi & Jay White, but I wasn’t bothered by it too much, especially when you consider that TLC II back at WrestleMania X7 had a ton of interference as well. Secondly, I think Kevin Kelly & Steve Corino could have done a little bit better on commentary, as they seemed subdued at certain points. Now I think they were probably trying to go for a more serious tone, given the nature of the match (and I understand that), but I think there were points where they could have been a little more excited.

So after all of the that, to put a bow on this whole thing, I thought this match was absolutely incredible and completely insane. To borrow the title from a famous song by the band Megadeth, this match was truly a “Symphony of Destruction”. It lived up to the brutality and the violence that we always associate with Ladder War, and in the view of sum, it might have even raised the bar. The big question to ponder now is where Ladder War VI ranks amongst the five previous Ladder Wars. I have no issue putting this right up there with the original Ladder War between The Briscoes & Steenerico from Man Up! in 2007. This match had a sense of danger and violent spectacle that surpassed anything I’ve felt in all previous Ladder Wars, excluding the original Ladder War. I’m not sure if Ladder War VI was better than the original Ladder War, but in my view, they at least equaled it, and that’s a massive accomplishment, for better or for worse. Additionally, it was easily the best ROH match we’ve seen in 2016, and will definitely be in my Top 10 MOTY list by the end of the year. ****¾

Final Thoughts:

All-Star Extravaganza VIII was an excellent card on paper, easily one of the best PPV cards ROH had to put together this year. I had a feeling this was going to be a very good show, but when the dust settled, it had completely surpassed my expectations. I thought this was a fantastic PPV. The worst matches on the show were still, at the very least, good, while the best matches on the show delivered in spades. There seemed to be a clear divide when it came to the match quality, as you had some in a “lower tier” that were all good, despite certain issues (Fish/Dijak, O’Reilly/Page, and the Four-Way #1 Contender’s Match). Then there was a “middle tier” of matches that ranged from very good to great (The Briscoes & Yano vs. ACH/KUSHIDA/Jay White, Lethal/Naito, & Cole/Elgin). Finally, you had the “highest tier”, with Ladder War VI & Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi. They were two of the best ROH matches we’ve seen this year, and need to be seen to be believed. As a whole, this wasn’t just the best ROH PPV this year, but probably the best PPV that ROH has done since they started doing live PPV’s in 2014. Despite all of the issues, speculation, & turmoil surrounding this promotion in 2016, I’ve legitimately never been this hyped up and excited about any ROH show in a very long time. At the very least, I think this show deserves to be in the “Show of the Year” conversation. Now I’m not saying it would win, or that it should win, but in my eyes, it’s earned the right to at least be in the conversation. This was a great PPV that was highlighted by two excellent matches, and it injected some real excitement into an ROH product that, in 2016, has been lacking any true buzz. On this night, they knocked it out of the park.