Ring of Honor
Best In The World 2017
June 23rd, 2017
Lowell Memorial Auditorium
Lowell, Massachusetts

Watch: ROH Wrestling

Despite all of the turmoil that has seemingly engulfed ROH over the last year or so, they’ve been on a great run relatively strong PPV events. None of them had a ton of hype going in, but when the dust settled, we usually ended up with very good to great cards that had at least a couple of matches that are worth going out of your way to see. Coming into this show, it looked like that streak of quality PPVs might come to an end, as Best In The World 2017 was one of the weakest PPV cards (on paper) that ROH had put together in quite some time. Thus, the big question coming into this show was whether it would disappoint, or if it could somehow exceed the low expectations.

Before I dive right into the matches, I just want to briefly talk about commentary team. BJ Whitmer joined Ian Riccaboni. Now BJ Whitmer is no stranger this kind of job, as he’s done commentary in the past on ROH TV and various VOD live events over the years. However, I must say that it was a little jarring to hear him at first. For a good portion of the show, Whitmer was essentially a straightforward babyface color commentator. It was so odd to hear him in this role as a babyface after seeing him as a heel for so long. He did favor the heels a little bit more as the show progressed, but in general, he came off as a babyface for most of the show. Even though Colt Cabana is definitely the superior color commentator, I thought BJ Whitmer did a fine job as a whole.

Ultimo Guerrero & El Terrible def. The Kingdom (Taven & Marseglia)

The Kingdom had one of the most ridiculous entrances I’ve ever seen. Matt Taven was in a throne on the stage (flanked by some beautiful women), while Vinny Masgelia & TK O’Ryan were both wheeled in. The former was strapped to a gurney (ala Silence of the Lambs), while the latter was in a wheelchair. While the entrance was incredibly whacky, they had a solid opening contest (under lucha tag rules) with the CMLL contingent of Ultimo Guerrero & El Terrible, who was wrestling in jeans for some odd reason. The crowd didn’t seem too familiar with the CMLL guys at first, and while El Terrible didn’t do much to stand out, Ultimo Guerrero definitely won over the crowd. He was very good throughout, and even got a number of the fans to do his signature “raising the roof” taunt (or whatever that thing he does is called). In general, Ultimo Guerrero just looked like he was having a good time, and that certainly helped the match be just a little bit more enjoyable. The Kingdom were their usual selves here, i.e. perfectly competent in the ring, but never capable of putting on more than a good match. TK O’Ryan, who is still in a walking boot after the injuries he suffered at the 15th Anniversary Show, got involved on a few occasions, but ultimately, the CMLL team was able to overcome The Kingdom, as Ultimo Guerrero pinned Vinny Marseglia with a rollup. A perfectly fine opener, but not incredibly memorable. ***1/4

Strap Match
Frankie Kazarian def. Adam Page

So this was very different Strap Match from what I thought it was going to be. Neither man was connected by one, long strap. Instead, both men simply had a strap about two (maybe three) feet long attached to their wrists. Although I expressed some cautious optimism in my preview, I don’t think anyone was looking forward to this match, partly because it personifies what ROH has become in 2017. What we ended up getting was an intense brawl that definitely exceeded my expectations. This was actually pretty good! They managed to carry over that intensity from their first match, and that just played right into the stipulation. It was brutal enough with the straps, but we got a couple of crazy spots. At one point, Kazarian suplexed Page onto the stairs that make up part of the entranceway. Later on, Page used his hangman’s noose to tie Kazarian to the ropes, and then just went to town on him with his strap. Page then introduced a strap covered in thumbtacks and nails (he must’ve talked to Abyss in preparation for this match). He used it on Kazarian, cutting up his back in the process, but Kazarian turned the tables, and used that strap with thumbtacks and nails on Page. Following a vicious fall onto the exposed hardwood floor, Kazarian used a regular strap to choke Page out in the ropes for the win. Again, this was a surprising good bout. There was cool action mixed in with intense brawling and some brutal spots. Both guys really stepped up here, and put together a match that was much better than it had any right to be. ***1/2

Losing Faction Must Disband
Search & Destroy def. The Rebellion

This an another example of a match that people didn’t care much about being a lot better than I was expecting. Granted, it didn’t greatly exceeded expectations like the match prior did, but still, this was a ton of fun to watch. There was nonstop action from start to finish, everyone had a chance to shine, and it went about the perfect length. The only real negative note I have to bring up is an awkward botch that occurred towards the end involving Jonathan Gresham. He tried to go for a springboard moonsault inside the ring, but he slipped and got caught up in the ropes. Gresham didn’t fall on his head (thankfully), though watching him struggle for a good four or five seconds as he tried to reposition himself was just so unfortunate. Out of all the guys involved here, he’s probably the last one I would expect to botch something, because he’s usually very smooth. Fortunately, Gresham made up for that mishap by scoring the win for Search & Destroy after making Rhett Titus tap out to an octopus stretch while the rest of his teammates trapped the remaining members of The Rebellion in submissions of their own. As I mentioned in the preview, I don’t think you could’ve go wrong with either result, though I’m very happy that Search & Destroy got the win here. The Rebellion had really run its course after being around for a year, so it was about time they were broken up. ***1/2

After the match was over, Punishment Martinez came out and attacked Jay White & Jonathan Gresham. Martinez has been feuding with White over the last month or so, and this marks the second time that White has been attacked by Martinez following a match on PPV. I believe they’ll be facing off on an episode of ROH TV coming up shortly, so this attack by Martinez builds up to that.

Jay Lethal def. Silas Young

While both men have exchanged victories over the last several months, Silas Young had really gotten the upper hand on Lethal coming into this one, with two victories over the former ROH World Champion in the last two months. This was the first time they’ve clashed on PPV, and it turned out to be a really good contest. The start was actually pretty clever, as Lethal came out through the crowd and ambushed The Beer City Bruiser with a steel chair, immediately removing him from the equation. The wrestling itself was, for the most part, very solid throughout. There was some brawling on the outside to start, and while the pace slowed down a bit immediately following that initial phase, things got better as the match progressed. We eventually saw some good back & forth action from both guys. Even when he’s buried in the middle of the card, Jay Lethal almost never fails to deliver a good performance on ROH PPV. To his credit, Silas Young stepped up as well, as he had an equally good outing. As a whole, this match was very enjoyable, but it wasn’t without its issues. At one point, Lethal was in the middle of doing his three consecutive dives to the floor, and Young used a chair to stop Lethal on the third dive. They never really made it clear whether Todd Sinclair was paying attention or not, because that should’ve immediately resulted in a DQ. Then, the finish itself was a little flat. Todd Sinclair got shoved down by Silas Young, who then went for a pin, but Sinclair wasn’t in position. Lethal then got a rollup of his own to score the victory. Again, the match was very good, but it could’ve been even better with a different finish. ***1/2

As soon as the match ended, Silas Young went on the attack. The Beer City Bruiser then returned, and they proceeded to destroy Jay Lethal. First, Young hit Lethal with his finisher, Misery, onto The Beer City Bruiser’s keg. Then, the keg was wedged into one of the corners, and Young restrained Lethal in that same corner as The Beer City Bruiser hit a number of running splashes on Lethal. Finally, they set up a table, and Silas Young watched on as The Beer City Bruiser hit a splash off the top rope to the floor, putting Lethal through a table. I don’t envy Jay Lethal in that situation at all. Obviously this feud is going to continue, as even though Lethal technically got the win, Silas Young was the one who stood tall in the end.

ROH Six-Man Tag Team Championships
Dalton Castle & The Boys def. The Briscoes & Bully Ray

The story going into this one was that Jay Briscoe was obsessed with getting his hands on The Boys after they inadvertently caused him to get pinned in an eight-man tag against Los Ingobernables de Japon. I think it’s fair to say that this was probably the weakest match on the entire card. It was by no means bad, and it certainly had some good moments scattered throughout, but it was basically a decent TV match put on PPV. They focus heavily on the storyline between Jay Briscoe & The Boys, as that seemed to take precedent over match quality. Speaking of The Boys, I mentioned in my preview of the PPV (and Joe Lanza brought a similar point up on the most recent Flagship Podcast) that this could’ve been a big opportunity for The Boys to break out. Well, that didn’t happen at all. They were total non-factors in this match, from a pure action perspective. They had a few spots here and there (the main one being a nuts shot on Jay Briscoe), but they barely did anything. It seemed like their sole purpose was to be the catalysts for the finish. Jay Briscoe dived onto The Boys on the floor, and they responded by just….running away through the crowd. Bully Ray tried to restrain Jay Briscoe, and while that was going on, Dalton Castle caught Mark Briscoe in a rollup to win the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles. I’m not sure why a rollup was the finish here. Castle could’ve just hit his finish on Mark Briscoe and that would’ve been significantly better. Also, that marks the third time that a match on this card ended with a rollup. Regardless, it’s still cool to see Dalton Castle FINALLY holding a title in ROH. The finish I predicted in my PPV preview ended up coming true, as Jay Briscoe’s obsession with The Boys cost his team the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles. Bully Ray didn’t looked too pleased after the fact, so I’ll be curious to see if there will be some sort of heel turn involving Jay Briscoe or Bully Ray coming out of this. ***

ROH World TV Championship
KUSHIDA def. Marty Scurll

Coming into this PPV, this was the match that I was looking forward to the most. Their first encounter, which featured KUSHIDA winning the ROH World TV Title, was fine, but pretty much everyone expected that this rematch would be significantly better. While it was certainly a great match, I felt that it slightly underperformed. Now don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of awesome action in this one from start to finish. KUSHIDA & Marty Scurll are two of the best wrestlers in the world, and they proved that here with some incredible back and forth exchanges. Scurll was vicious, and it looked like he had the match won at numerous points, but the current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion never gave up. Eventually, KUSHIDA turned the tables on Scurll, using his own finger break spot against hit, and then hit Back To The Future twice (once off the second rope and then again in the ring) to retain. There wasn’t anything wrong with the actual wrestling itself. What hurt this match, in my view, was the crowd. At certain points, they seemed to be very quiet, and didn’t react much at all. I don’t think the crowd was tired, because they were really behind Marty Scurll. Honestly, it seemed like these fans either weren’t into KUSHIDA (I don’t recall him getting any negative reactions), or they didn’t know who he was, which is crazy considering the fact that KUSHIDA wrestled on a ROH PPV in this very building last fall. Whatever it was, the lack of reaction definitely hurt this one, as they were points where it seemed like KUSHIDA & Marty Scurll were wrestling in front of a silent crown. Those issues with the crowd, however, didn’t change the fact that this was still a great title bout. ****

ROH World Tag Team Championships
Triple Threat Tornado Tag
Young Bucks def. Best Friends & War Machine

This was originally scheduled to be just a regular two-on-two title match with War Machine challenging The Young Bucks, but Chuck Taylor & Trent Beretta came out and inserted themselves into the mix, with Beretta noting that Taylor pinned one of The Young Bucks during a six-man tag in Philadelphia on a recent episode of ROH TV. The addition of Best Friends was a great move, though I don’t know why they didn’t just add them in beforehand. That six-man tag that Beretta brought only took place a couple of weeks ago, so there was plenty of time to add Best Friends to this one. I guess they just wanted their appearance to be a surprise.

Anyway, this turned out to be a fantastic match! It was a super entertaining sprint (going around twelve or thirteen minutes) that featured some insane action from start to finish. Everyone involved did a great job, and the fans were into it throughout. It was easily the best match on the entire show. While there’s no doubt that The Young Bucks vs. War Machine would’ve been great, Chuck Taylor & Trent Beretta added so much to this one. With their late addition, I thought there was a chance that they could’ve won the titles here, but The Young Bucks ultimately emerged victories, pinning Chuck Taylor after a double Indytaker followed by some superkicks. I hope that result doesn’t mean that Taylor goes away, because he would be such an awesome addition to the ROH roster. Hopefully he sticks around. ****1/4

ROH World Title
Cody def. Christopher Daniels

Well, we knew it was coming eventually, but it finally happened. Cody is your new ROH World Champion. I didn’t put the chances of Daniels winning at absolute zero, but pretty everyone knew this result was coming. In hindsight, we should’ve seen how this match was going to play out. They were having a good, solid wrestling match (but nothing more) until the shenanigans started. Todd Sinclair got taken out (which in hindsight, wasn’t as groan inducing as it usually is, since it didn’t lead directly to the finish), which was the signal for Marty Scurll to come out to hand Cody a steel chair. Daniels caught the chair and did the old Eddie Guerrero spot, but this was immediately followed by Cody hitting Daniels with a cutter onto the chair, in full view of Todd Sinclair, which marks the second time on this show that Sinclair saw the chair being used, and didn’t call for the DQ. Kazarian came out and fought Marty Scurll to the back, while Cody shoved Cary Silkin at ringside. A table that got brought out eventually got used when Daniels put Cody through it with a belly-to-back suplex, finishers were exchanged, and Cody finally got the win after hitting a second Cross Rhodes.

The fan reactions here were very interesting. For the most part, Cody was over with a majority of the crowd in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Associating himself with The Bullet Club was the smartest decision Cody ever made, because it pretty much guaranteed that he’d get positive reactions from that large contingent of Bullet Club fans (some might call them “casual hardcores”) that almost always turn out for these big ROH events. The reaction that Daniels got was certainly more mixed. He definitely got cheers and chants in his favor, but he got some more negative responds (we even got a “Daniels sucks” chant at one point). As for the match itself, there was good wrestling at various points. Everything before the shenanigans was solid, and I actually thought the closing few minutes, with Cody & Daniels exchanging counters and finishers, were pretty good as well. However, the shenanigans definitely hurt the match, and in general, Cody winning was such a flat ending, even though all of those Bullet Club fans in the crowd loved it. I hope you’re all ready for some good, but ultimately subpar, ROH World Title defenses over the next few months, because that’s exactly what we’re going to get with Cody as ROH World Champion. ***1/4

Final Thoughts:

While it was by no means spectacular, Best In The World 2017 was a very solid PPV outing from ROH. The majority of the undercard was pretty good, and in particular, the Strap Match and the Losing Unit Must Disband Eight Man Tag both overachieved based on the expectations going in. KUSHIDA vs. Marty Scurll for the ROH World TV Title was great, despite issues with the crowd, while the Triple Threat Tornado Tag for the ROH World Tag Team Titles was fantastic, and easily the highlight the card. The main event was generally solid (it was far from bad) but it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect with a match involving Cody. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens going forward with the ROH World Title, and who the first challengers will be. Best In The World 2017 continued the streak of really good PPVs from ROH, though it wasn’t nearly as great as some of the big shows ROH had put on over the last several months.