Ring Of Honor/New Japan Pro Wrestling
War Of The Worlds 2018: Night 1
May 9, 2018
Lowell Memorial Auditorium
Colt Cabana & BJ Whitmer were on commentary for this event. It was interesting to hear Cabana in the play-by-play role, as opposed to the color commentator role. Also, when was the last time a commentary team was made up of two wrestlers? Anyway, they noted that Ian Riccaboni would be joining the tour in Toronto.
ROH World Tag Team Champions The Briscoes def. Flip Gordon & Jushin “Thunder” Liger
The show kicked off with a non-title affair as the nine-time ROH World Tag Team Champions took on a rising star and a Japanese wrestling legend. From start to finish, this was a pretty entertaining opener. Flip Gordon did what he does best (it’s in his name), Liger hit some of his signature spots, and The Briscoes played their roles perfectly. For the most part, this match consisted of quick control periods from The Briscoes that would be broken up by offensive spurts from Gordon & Liger. The final two minutes or so were particularly strong, even with a bit where Jay Briscoe kicked both of his opponents low while the referee was distracted (I don’t mind stuff like that too much when it doesn’t lead directly to the finish). Before that, there was a nice nearfall after Gordon hit a 450 Splash on Mark Briscoe (the pin was broken up by Jay). The finish came when The Briscoes managed to get the win after hitting Gordon with the Redneck Boogie, which is essentially their Razor’s Edge/Neckbreaker combo, but off the top rope. This was a very enjoyable way to kick off the show. No complaints from me. ***1/4
Tenille Dashwood & Women Of Honor Champion Sumie Sakai def. Deonna Purrazzo & Skylar
Skylar is a wrestler on the local New England independent scene, and she was a put in a big spot here (relatively speaking) with three veterans in a Women Of Honor tag team showcase. This ended up being a fine bout. It was by no means spectacular (and the fans didn’t seem to be that into it), but the wrestling throughout was solid, and all four competitors had moments to shine. They went about eight minutes, and after some quick exchanges, Tenille Dashwood picked up the win for her team after hitting Spotlight on Skylar. **3/4
After the match ended, Kelly Klein ran out and attacked Deonna Purrazzo. The two brawled, and they were eventually separated by security. They’ll be having a singles match on the final stop of the tour in Chicago.
Up next we got an unexpected promo from ROH World Champion Dalton Castle. He said that he’s closing in on six months as champion, and mentioned that he’s taken the title all over the world (listing off Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Montreal, and the “tropical land” known as Pittsburgh). Castle told The Boys to go to the back, because he was about to get serious. He talked about the various injuries that he’s been going through (including his back, hip, and hand), and said that ignoring them doesn’t mean they’ll just go away. The doctors gave him a back diagnosis with regards to back, and said that he needs to get these issues fixed. Castle wouldn’t be able to defend the title tonight, and brought up the fact that the injuries have prevented him from training properly. He said that if he wasn’t going to be at his best, then he shouldn’t be competing in the ring. Castle declared that his challenger (Taven) and the fans deserve better, but also said that this doesn’t mean he’s giving up the title. He promised that he’ll be back to kicking ass once he’s at 100%. Castle then told the crowd that they’re going to have some brunch, and had The Boys toss out croissants to the crowd (yes, that actually happened).
I’m honestly not sure what to make of that promo from Castle. While I wouldn’t doubt the legitimacy of the various injuries he mentioned (I’m sure he’s banged up), this promo just reeked of “champion weaseling his way out of a title defense be claiming an injury”. Now I could be completely wrong on that, but that’s how it (partly) came off to me, and some of what Matt Taven would say just a few minutes later would see to add credence to that theory. I hope what Castle said in this promo was totally legitimate, but I just have this weird feeling that there’s to this story than meets the eye. I pray they’re not thinking of turning Dalton Castle heel.
As for the change to the card, this is something that I wish ROH would’ve just announced in advance, instead of revealing it a half-hour into the event.
Coast 2 Coast (Shaheem Ali & LSG) def. The Kingdom (Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan)
Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan came out with the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles, which The Kingdom stole from SoCal Uncensored following a brutal Ladder Match at Supercard Of Honor XII in New Orleans. Before this match began, Matt Taven joined his stablemates in the ring to respond to what Dalton Castle had just said. He called Castle a “baby back bitch” (or something along those lines) and proclaimed that another champion has “lost their smile” in Lowell. Taven mentioned how he wrestled for ten minutes after blowing out his knee at Final Battle 2015, and said that ROH officials should hand him the ROH World Title right now. He continued his rant by bringing up the “conspiracy” against The Kingdom. Taven then shouted out his grandfather in the front row (apparently he’s a war veteran), before declaring that the conspiracy would be killed, and that he would be the ROH World Champion the next time ROH came to Lowell. This was even stranger than the Castle promo, mainly due to the fact that Taven seemed be alternating between being a babyface and being a heel. The derogatory comments made towards Castle were certainly heelish, and he’s been spouting out about the “Kingdom Conspiracy” as a heel for months. At the same time, however, when Taven brought up how he gutted his way through a serious injury, called attention to his grandfather, and made a big promise to the hometown crowd, he certainly came off like a babyface. Perhaps he was presented as more of a face here due to the fact that The Kingdom were on their home turf, but I honestly don’t know.
As for the actual match between Coast 2 Coast and The Kingdom, to say that it was a mess would be an understatement. I don’t think anyone was expecting this to be a classic, but based on the bits of actual wrestling we saw here, these two teams could’ve easily had a fun back and forth tag team affair. Ultimately, two factors contributed to its downfall. First, we had the shenanigans involving people going underneath the ring. Vinny Marseglia went under first, and dragged Coast 2 Coast (along with referee Paul Turner) down with him in horror movie-esque fashion….I guess? This bit ended when Marseglia emerged with an axe and chased Coast 2 Coast around the ring. That segment just took the crowd completely out of the match, and it was pretty pointless too. All of that just for Marseglia to come out with the axe that he has with him all the time? Plus, it really annoys me when people in wrestling uses things like an axe and threaten to use it. When people brings out weapons like that, it totally kicks any suspension of disbelief.
After that under the ring bit, it seemed like the match was getting back on track, but then the finish happened. Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky snuck up to ringside in hoodies and stole the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Title belts that were in the possession of Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan. This distraction allowed Marseglia to get rolled up by LSG, and Coast 2 Coast got the victory. It did set up what would happen later, but what a crappy way to end a totally nondescript match. **
Christopher Daniels celebrated with the rest of SoCal Uncensored on the entrance stage (They didn’t have all of the belts however, as the belt that Taven possessed was backstage). Taven then issued a challenge later in the night for a match with the titles up for grabs. SoCal Uncensored seemed to accept, and it was soon confirmed by Colt Cabana on commentary that the title bout would indeed take place tonight. They would later announce that Chuckie T, Jay Lethal, & Jay White (who were originally scheduled to face SoCal Uncensored in a non-title match) would be involved a Triple Threat Match later on.
Cheeseburger def. Bully Ray via countout
I was a fool for thinking that Bully Ray was actually retired after his loss at Final Battle 2017. After becoming the ROH “enforcer” a month or two prior, he turned heel (out of nowhere) at Supercard Of Honor XII when he attacked Cheeseburger, and successfully held the show hostage in a pointless segment. That led us to this singles match (the only one on this entire event after the late card changes), and when the dust settled, it really wasn’t much of a much. Bully Ray shoved Cheeseburger down, hit three powerbombs, followed up with a low blow after distracting the referee with his chain, and then…..got himself counted out, which allowed Cheeseburger to win. While it was basically just a long segment disguised as a match (there wasn’t enough substance for me to refer to it as a traditional match), I have no idea what the point of any of this was. The “finish” of this segment felt like something Vince Russo would’ve booked during his WCW tenure in 1999-2000. This feud must continue…..I guess. N/R
The Bullet Club (Cody, “The Hangman” Adam Page, & “The Villain” Marty Scurll) def. Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH)
Burnard The Business Bear accompanied Cody to ringside. This was a pretty solid six-man tag, but it was certainly an improvement over everything we saw (matches and segments) after the opener. There was fine action throughout, particularly in final few minutes, and everyone involved had the opportunity to shine. They teased some dissension throughout the bout between Cody and Scurll, as they kept tagging themselves in, and this led to a spot late in the match when Scurll accidentally superkicked Burnard. Towards the end, it seemed like the momentum had swung in the favor of Roppongi 3K (after a triple dive to the outside), but then Cody nailed Romero with the Cross Rhodes out of nowhere for the win. Again, this was a good six-man tag that managed to get this event back on track. Having Roppongi 3K lose here could be seen as odd at the time (as they were scheduled to challenge for the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles in Toronto), but it made a little more sense after what happened later on. ***1/4
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, & SANADA) def. ROH World TV Champion Silas Young, The Beer City Bruiser, & Brian Milonas
This was one of the most talked about matches on the entire tour, coming into it (though not necessarily for the right reasons). I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, but it ended up being a fine match that was slightly below the previous six-man tag, in terms of quality. It went just under ten minutes, and featured some relatively decent action. Even though the team captained by Silas Young gave them some trouble (The Beer City Bruiser & Brian Milonas used their size to their advantage at a number of points), the trio from LIJ ultimately emerged victorious after EVIL hit his EVIL STO on Brian Milonas. This was a solid match for what it was. It actually reminded me a lot of a typical multi-man tag that you would see on a New Japan “Road To….” event, as it was being used to build up a singles bout (The Beer City Bruiser vs. Tetsuya Naito) for later on in the tour. ***
Triple Threat Match – Chuckie T def. Jay Lethal & IWGP United States Champion “Switchblade” Jay White
In a very strange moment, the ROH production team initially played Jay White’s old theme and entrance video when he came out (what he used during his excursion in ROH). They eventually got the music right, but they weren’t able to pull up the correct entrance video. How do you screw something like that up? Anyway, speaking of strange, that’s exactly the word I would use to describe this Triple Threat Match. The wrestling throughout was actually pretty good, but the first 90% of this bout was worked like a two-on-one handicap match, with Chuckie T and Jay White working together (since both are members of CHAOS) to take out Jay Lethal. Now it’s not unusual to see two guys gang up on one guy in this situation, but they were working together so much that it really felt like a handicap match. The crowd seemed indifferent at points, and I wouldn’t blame them, based on how this played out. Lethal fought back the best he could, but the two CHAOS stablemates would always retake control. They would eventually come to blows, but not until the final minute or so. The finish was actually pretty cool, as Chuckie T caught Jay Lethal in a jackknife pin right after he nailed White with the Lethal Injection. That was nice way to end it, as it helped build up the Chuckie T/Jay Lethal singles bout that’s happening in Chicago on the last stop of the tour. While I wasn’t a fan of how it was structured, this was still a pretty good match that featured some fun exchanges. ***1/4
ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles – The Kingdom def. SoCal Uncensored (c)
This was presented as a “make good” of sorts, since the originally scheduled title bout wasn’t going to happen. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, SoCal Uncensored are the rightful champions, but The Kingdom stole the physical title belts at Supercard Of Honor XII. I figured this match was going to happen at some point, given the storyline, but I didn’t expect to see it here. Before the match, they showed Matt Taven’s grandfather (a war veteran), with some other members of his family, at ringside. As soon as they showed them on camera, I knew The Kingdom was going to win, and that’s exactly what happened, as they became the first team to hold the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles for a second time. There was a lot of brawling at the start, and even though we did get that stupid bit involving Vinny Marseglia hiding under the ring (this time, it resulted in Marseglia choking Kazarian with balloons), the match still featured some solid action throughout. In some ways, this was a strange bout to see, since The Kingdom were presented as the babyfaces here (since they’re on their home turf) despite the fact that, generally, both have been pushed as heels.
Towards the end of the bout, the referee got knocked down. Kazarian went to use one of the title belts, but he accidentally hit Daniels. Taven soon capitalized with a Frog Splash, and secured the win for his team. I know people like to criticize The Kingdom (a fair amount of that criticism is justified, don’t get me wrong), but one shining positive about them is that their trios matches are never bad. Sure, their range in that department has been proven to be limited (in terms of star ratings, I’ve never seen a trios match involving The Kingdom that’s been lower than ***, but their ceiling is firmly ***1/2, and for me, they’ve only reached that mark once or twice). They don’t light the world on fire, but when it comes to six-man tags, they’re actually pretty consistent, in a good way. Now this particular bout could’ve been a bit better if the Vinny Marseglia nonsense and the referee bump towards the end were taken out but this was still pretty solid. The Kingdom did get a nice reaction when they won, though I’m curious to see how they’re presented going forward, especially after what Matt Taven said in his promo earlier. ***1/4
The Young Bucks def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
It’s fair to say that this was the most anticipated match on the entire card, and it was really cool to see it as the main event. BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi have proven to be a pretty exciting tag team in New Japan’s junior division, and of course, The Young Bucks are always awesome in these big spots. When the dust settled, this ended up being a fantastic tag team encounter that was easily the match of the night. As expected, there was great action from start to finish, and the fans in Lowell were solidly behind both teams. After the initial opening exchanges, LIJ isolated Matt Jackson, and the intensity slowly picked up as Matt attempted to fight back. At one point, they fought to the outside, and Matt managed to hit a stage dive off the entrance stairs that go from the stage to ringside. He eventually made the tag to Nick, and the pace really started to pick up. There was a comedy spot in the second half where Matt when after everyone after getting misted by BUSHI (he even locked Paul Turner in the sharpshooter), but other than that, the final few minutes featured nonstop action. It looked like LIJ were on their way to victory after Hiromu hit Nick with the sunset bomb to the floor, while BUSHI hit Matt with a BUSHI Destroyer, but The Young Bucks recovered and eventually managed to hit the Meltzer Driver on BUSHI to score the victory. Once again, nothing else on the card came to this match. ****
In the preview I wrote for this tour, I mentioned that the first night in Lowell easily had the weakest card. Well, this wasn’t exactly a stellar show, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ends up being the worst of the bunch. At the same time, however, it was far from a horrible show. There was certainly some questionable, and even downright terrible, stuff in the first half (such as the promos from Dalton Castle & Matt Taven, Coast 2 Coast vs. The Kingdom, and Bully Ray vs. Cheeseburger), but the rest of the undercard was relatively solid, which matches hovering around the ***-***1/4 range. You did have a title change with The Kingdom winning the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles, but that bout didn’t do a ton to stand out from the pack. The main event was incredible, and is really the only match on this show that’s worth checking out. If you have more time, I’d also recommend watching the opener, as that was my favorite match on the undercard. This first stop on the 2018 War Of The Worlds Tour very much felt like it would’ve fit right in with the “Road To….” events on the most recent New Japan tour. You had a great main event, a title match (in the case of New Japan, those two were one in the same), and an undercard that, for the most part, was pretty tame.