ROH/NJPW Honor Rising
February 26, 2017
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

  • Joe Lanza: Hello. I’m Joe Lanza. You may know me from the VOW Flagship Podcast, the man BBC Radio calls when they need top notch expert pro wrestling analysis, or hundreds of smarmy subtweets from geeks who can’t stand that I’m always right.
  • John Carroll: No idea how I’m supposed to top that, but uh hi. I’m John. I’m going to ROH Manhattan Mayhem in like barely over a week and honestly keep forgetting that I have tickets to the show, so that should tell you how excited I am for Ring of Honor at the moment. Hurray!

David Finlay, Juice Robinson & KUSHIDA vs. Jado, Gedo, Silas Young

Joe Lanza: World Class Tag Team & Silas Young is the trio we never knew we wanted but very clearly needed. This same match happens on Night 2 sans Juice and Gedo, so I’ll say the babyfaces prevail here and the heels win the second bout. Prediction: Finlay, Juice, KUSHIDA

John Carroll: I’m pretty into the idea of Jado & Gedo teaming up with Silas too, although you’d think poor Silas could get a little more to do than opening tags every night. This match will be sleazy fun and I’ll go ahead and say the babyfaces win as well. Prediction: Finlay, Juice, & KUSHIDA

Tiger Mask, Jushin Thunder Liger, Delirious vs. BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA

Joe Lanza: This is everything the NEVER trios titles should be. Fun, completely random teams receiving fun, completely random title shots, giving a little bit of juice to mundane NJPW undercards loaded with endless strings of meaningless multi man tags. The dopes who complained about these belts being introduced last year lost that debate via first round knockout. Prediction: LIJ

John Carroll: Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger are a pretty well established New Japan team, but Delirious as their third for a title shot (of all things) is, uh, pretty random! I guess masked men and all that would be the theme, but still, weird. Also not sure I like the idea of putting a NEVER six-man title match in the second match on the card. I’m fine with frequent defenses but having it this far down the card seems like it devalues the belts a little. Anyway, obviously LIJ is winning this. Prediction: LIJ

Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada vs. Tanga Roa, Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale

Joe Lanza: This is a strange bout, with no current rivals on opposite sides, and Okada working what amounts to a prelim. It’s hard to even see any angles coming out of this to create a future match. Okada is occupied with Tiger Mask W and Kenny Omega. Goto has to deal with Punisher Martinez the next night, so a NEVER title challenge by Fale or Yujiro would tip off the result of the Martinez match. Young Will, Y-H, and GOD have no obvious pairings on their respective opposite sides for a future bout. With all of that said, I see a Rainmaker in Yujiro’s future, with no clear reason for CHAOS A-players to lose to Bullet Club Black & White. Prediction: CHAOS

John Carroll: Don’t ask me what the point of this match is because I haven’t got a clue either. I guess the best you can really say is it keeps that eternal on-again, off-again Okada-Fale rivalry going, but what a weird way to get the Bullet Club back on the cards again. Prediction: CHAOS

War Machine vs. The Young Bucks

Joe Lanza: War Machine has two straight-up tag team matches on this mini tour, and I don’t think that’s an accident. The Bucks are a junior team, and not currently NJPW title holders, so a loss doesn’t hurt them at all. I think War Machine wins this, then knocks off GOD on Night 2 to set up an IWGP tag title match. Prediction: War Machine

John Carroll: This is probably the first match of the card that has a chance to be a pretty damn good match. The hardcore Korakuen crowd should be into both of these teams (one thinks the fans attending this will be more American-friendly than your standard NJPW crowd to begin with, but it’s not like War Machine wasn’t getting over with all sorts of crowds last year) and both teams will probably be looking to shine in this featured spot. I like Joe’s theory on War Machine, so let’s go ahead and run with that. Prediction: War Machine

Dalton Castle, Ryusuke Taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito, Punisher Martinez

Joe Lanza: The only possible loser here is Castle. Taguchi has a title match coming up (and has Hiromu shook with his indecent tongue flicking), Tanahashi has been phased down but isn’t even close to pin-eater-in-a-mid-card-tag status yet, Hiromu is supremely protected and simply doesn’t lose falls ever (even to set up title matches), there is zero chance Naito loses here, and Martinez has a NEVER title match the next night. Prediction: Hiromu, Naito, and Martinez

John Carroll: Dalton Castle and Ryusuke Taguchi on the same team is going to lead to hilarity of some sort, I’m sure. As long as THE PUNISHER MARTINEZ can stay out of the way enough this should be a pretty fun math. I’d especially like to see some Castle exchanges with Hiromu & Naito. And yeah, tough to see a scenario where Castle doesn’t lose this. Prediction: LIJ + a guy I’ve legitimately never seen wrestle before

Katsuyori Shibata & Jay Lethal vs. Hangman Page & Cody

Joe Lanza: There’s a lot going on here. Cody (in)famously included Shibata on his checklist, so this could be the setup for their inevitable singles match. But Cody is currently feuding with Lethal in ROH, so with Shibata and Minoru Suzuki seemingly starting up an issue at the Togi Makabe Anniversary show, it would make more sense for this to be about Cody & Lethal. Cody R almost never loses clean anywhere on Earth, so either Page is losing or Cody is knocking off Lethal. Prediction: Page & Cody

John Carroll: Hey! Finally a chance for me to disagree with Joe! I dunno why you’d have Lethal job when Hangman Page is right there. Can’t say I’m excited to see Cody back in New Japan, nor am I thrilled to see Shibata wasting his time with three of the biggest heat sinks on this show. I like Jay Lethal, but he’s never meant a damn thing in New Japan and at this point I don’t think he ever will. This match will definitely exist, and that’s about the nicest thing you can say about it. Prediction: Shibata & Lethal

The Briscoe Brothers vs. Adam Cole & Kenny Omega

Joe Lanza: This should be loads of fun and a great appetizer for the killer 8-man main event on Night 2. I’m not a huge fan of Cole, but he’s a his best in situations like this when he’s involved in a wild tag with high energy workers. Prediction: Cole & Omega

John Carroll: Finally we reach our main event, and honestly I think they deserve some credit for putting together an all-white guy main event for one of these ROH crossover shows that actually manages to feel like it might matter to NJPW fans. Obviously you have Kenny Omega making his big return and that’s the big story, as it should be. But then on top of that you’ve got a pair of former IWGP Tag Team champions on the other side of the ring as well (2/3rds of the first ever NEVER six-man champions too!), and Omega’s teaming with a guy who won his latest ROH World Title in this very city. Not bad, given what’s left for New Japan to even work with at this point. I expect this to be one of the better matches of the two nights. Prediction: Cole & Omega

ROH/NJPW Honor Rising
February 27, 2017
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

David Finlay & KUSHIDA vs. Jado & Silas Young

Joe Lanza: Completely meaningless bout. I picked the babyfaces for Night 1, so I’m going with the heels here. Prediction: Jado & Young

John Carroll: Let’s just say Jado jobs both nights. You know why? Because I said so, that’s why. Prediction: Finlay & KUSHIDA

Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Jushin Thunder Liger, Dalton Castle & Delirious vs. Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, Tetsuya Naito

Joe Lanza: Pretty clever pitting the Night 1 trios challengers on the opposite side of the champs on Night 2 to cast some doubt on the outcome, but I’m not buying it. BUSHI is always a candidate to lose, so I’ll pick an upset here, with Taguchi putting away BUSHI to continue his momentum going into his junior title challenge. Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Jushin Thunder Liger, Dalton Castle & Delirious

John Carroll: Dear god what a waste of LIJ here. A 10-man tag match #2 against the old guys, Delirious, and Dalton Castle? At least Taguchi is in there I guess, but geez this is bad. Anyway I can see where Joe is coming from but with so many guys who can drop a fall on the other side, still gotta go with LIJ here. Prediction: LIJ

War Machine vs. Guerillas of Destiny

Joe Lanza: War Machine were the stars of the World Tag League tour that nobody watched, and I think they’ll pick up two strong wins over two pushed teams on this tour to set up a title challenge of Ishii & Yano. GOD has arguably been the best tag team in the world since last fall, so I expect this match to be very good at minimum. Prediction: War Machine

John Carroll: This will be a decent match, maybe better if the GOD of the tag league finals shows up. I’m still not quite as high on them as Joe, but they’ve definitely made some strides after being a pretty bad team for most of 2016. War Machine are gonna do their big fat man dives and stuff that will always get over with a Japanese crowd, so that will help. It’s possible GOD wins here to set up their own tag title challenge, but I’ll buy Joe’s argument on War Machine I guess. Prediction: War Machine

Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jay Lethal vs. Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale

Joe Lanza: Is Bullet Club so bloated that they now have a C-team? Swap out Fale for, say, Chase Owens or Frankie Kazarian and take a long hard look at that team. Prediction: Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jay Lethal

John Carroll: Yeah, that Bullet Club team, woof. Also I expect Jay Lethal to have like negative charisma teaming up with the stereotypical babyface fire of Tana & Juice (maybe like 2006 Jay Lethal would have been good here, but not current anti-hero “look ma I still have my edge, look at how edgy I am!!” Jay Lethal). Altogether this could be really bad, folks. Really really bad. Prediction: Lethal Tana Juice (that almost sounds like a deadly drink)

NEVER Openweight Title
Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Punisher Martinez

Joe Lanza: This is bizarre to say the least. Martinez is a guy ROH wants to push, and while on one hand insiders have been begging for ROH to push fresh talent, he’s an eye opening choice when guys like ACH, Keith Lee, and Donovan Dijak were stuck in the mud and eventually walked out of the promotion, and Lio Rush (who isn’t even on this tour) appears to potentially be on the same path. To be fair, I’m not sure Goto vs the tiny Rush would have been the right match for this kind of show, but when examining the bigger picture, with no disrespect intended towards Martinez, you have to wonder why ROH never got behind the more seasoned and talented guys that eventually moved on. This match also speaks to ROH’s depth. Third from the top in Korakuen, a NEVER title match, one of two singles matches on the entire tour, and Punisher Martinez got the spot, but when you examine the rest of the ROH roster and who was brought over, you could reasonably argue he was the best choice. That’s utterly amazing, and speaks to the steady exodus of talent that ROH has inexplicably allowed to occur over the last 18 months, some of which was due to frustration over lack of push and/or issues with management. ROH is what it is in the pecking order, and some of that talent would have left regardless, but by all rights ACH or Keith Lee or Donovan Dijak or Cedric Alexander or [insert ex-ROH talent here] should be in this high profile spot while a longer term project like Martinez is moved along slowly and maybe given some shine in a prelim, but here we are. Prediction: Goto

John Carroll: Tough to argue with anything Joe really said there. The fact that so many guys decided they’d rather ply their trade for the relative peanuts of EVOLVE, just for a chance at maybe breaking in with WWE (I’m skeptical how many of these dudes will ultimately make it, by the way; how many more people can WWE even sign at this point?!), should tell you something about where they view ROH right now. Where would Ring of Honor be without this New Japan deal? Probably almost nowhere, which should give you some pause when you start thinking about NJPW’s desires to run the US on their own. Clearly a lot of the talent in ROH doesn’t see a long-term future here, or at least they don’t see any reason to stick around and ply their trade a second longer than they have to, which is kind of sad if you have any nostalgia for what ROH used to mean to the larger wrestling business. Anyway! Like Joe was saying, that’s how you end up with this lovely match. Goto is winning, of course. Prediction: Goto

ROH World Title
Adam Cole (c) vs. YOSHI-HASHI

Joe Lanza: YOSHI-HASHI has less than zero chance to win this, so let’s focus on the match itself. Cole never knocks my socks off, but I do think his cocky heel work is a decent match for Y-H’s babyface fire and hot comebacks. I expect this to be by the numbers structure wise, and if everything falls into place, it could be the sleeper match of the tour. Prediction: Cole

John Carroll: Cole is one of these dudes who I honestly enjoy way better when he’s not the focus of a promotion, you know? Like probably the time I enjoyed him the most in ROH of late, for example, was when he was teaming up with Bennett & Taven as the goofy Kingdom, having fun six-man tags with AJ Styles & the Young Bucks and generally just being wacky without being the World champion. It’s probably all moot because one assumes Cole isn’t sticking around much longer anyway, but I’ve just never really bought him as a featured, tippy-top guy. I think if he goes to NXT/WWE and ends up (long-term) in kind of a Miz upper-mid-card heel role, he’ll probably have found his true calling. Anyway, yeah, this match has a chance at being pretty good I guess. YOSHI-HASHI has kind of cooled down a lot, at least to me, since the G1, but I’m sure fans will be behind him here and that will help. Prediction: Cole

Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada & The Briscoe Brothers vs. The Young Bucks, Cody & Kenny Omega

Joe Lanza: This is my most anticipated match of the tour, and it should be utterly bonkers. Cody sticks out like a sore thumb, but the other seven guys are so good (and all thrive in this type of bout) that even Two-Stardust won’t be able to drag this down. The key booking thing to look for is whether Omega pins Okada to plant seeds for a rematch at either Genesis (the former Invasion Attack) or Dominion. With bouts against Tiger Mask W and the New Japan Cup winner to focus on, I think they’ll leave Omega out of the Okada picture for a while (unless he wins NJC), but this match is a clear sign that they’re keeping the fire stoked for something later this year. Prediction: Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada & The Briscoe Brothers

John Carroll: Hell of a step up for Okada (and Ospreay too) from night 1, eh? Yeah, I’m assuming this match will be pretty nuts too, as long as they keep Cody out of it as long as possible of course. Teaming the Briscoes up with CHAOS is a nice little callback to their days teaming with Yano, too, and generally being CHAOS assistants in New Japan, and I enjoy that kind of continuity. Seeing Omega interact with Okada again for the first time in nearly two months will be very entertaining as well. Really, this is about as good of a way to close the book on these two shows as you could have at this point, just given ROH’s well-documented limitations. If it ends up being the last Honor Rising ever (and don’t sleep on that possibility, is all I’m gonna say) it will probably be a good way for this to go out. Prediction: CHAOS