Ring of Honor
Best in the World 2018
June 29, 2018
UMBC Event Center
ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles – The Kingdom (Matt Taven, Vinny Marseglia, & TK O’Ryan) (C) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, & SANADA)
In an fun little trivia note, EVIL was on ROH’s first live PPV in June 2014, back when he was still on excursion as Takaaki Watanabe. It’s crazy to look back at the card now, just to see the turnover that the ROH roster has gone through over the past four years. Anyway, this was a good opening contest that featured some fine action from start to finish. LIJ were as entertaining as always, even though it was clear that they weren’t putting forth a ton of effort. As for The Kingdom, they were pretty solid in their own right. Despite the fact that a lot people don’t like them, there’s no denying that The Kingdom are very consistent (in a good way) when it comes to these trios matches, particularly on bigger shows. They’re never going to knock your socks off, but you can count on them to deliver a relatively good six-man tag almost every time. The finish came when Vinny Marseglia took a bullet for Matt Taven when he got the black mist in the face from BUSHI. This led to Taven and O’Ryan hitting BUSHI with the Rockstar Supernova (minus Marseglia) to retain. The outcome of this one was never in doubt, but as a whole, this was still a good way to kick off the show. ***1/4
Flip Gordon def. Bully Ray via DQ
This match kicked off with a very cool spot. As Flip Gordon was about to do the spot during his entrance where he does a backflip and tears off his shorts, Bully Ray (who hadn’t come out yet) tried to sneak attack him. Gordon saw it coming, still tore off his shorts during the backflip, and superkicked Bully Ray immediately. The timing on that was perfect. From there, Flip Gordon just dominated for a good three or four minutes, hitting a series of dives as he just took the fight to Bully Ray. Then the match took a….fascinating turn. Bully Ray hit one offense move (just one), failed to connect with a Vader Bomb, and at that point, decided to kick Flip Gordon low for the DQ. Ian Riccaboni & Colt Cabana equated what Bully Ray did to somebody rage quitting in the middle of a video game when they weren’t winning, and I have to say that’s a very accurate assessment. Technically speaking, Gordon did win the match, but I wish he would’ve actually beaten Bully Ray instead of getting the win this way. While the crowd was really into seeing Gordon kick Bully Ray’s ass, the finish had strong “this feud must continue vibes”, which unfortunately means we’ll be seeing more of Bully Ray in ROH. That point would be further backed up by what we saw afterwards. **
Following the match, Bully Ray continued to beat up Flip Gordon. He got a chair and used it repeatedly to attack the legs of Gordon. Eli Isom tried to make the save, but he was quickly disposed of. Cheeseburger then ran out, and actually got some shots in a Bully Ray before he got taken out with a powerbomb. On commentary, Ian Riccaboni & Colt Cabana begged for anyone from the back to put a stop to this, and as Gordon was about to get powerbombed through a table, Cabana ran down the ring and forced Bully Ray to retreat. I guess this is going to lead to a Bully Ray/Colt Cabana match, which is fine, but I hope that we actually get to see Flip Gordon (and Cheeseburger) get their revenge on Bully Ray at some stage. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing all of this?
Women Of Honor Champion Sumie Sakai, Jenny Rose, Mayu Iwatani, & Tenille Dashwood vs. Kelly Klein & Oedo Tai (Hana Kimura, Hazuki, & Kagetsu)
Believe it or not, this actually isn’t the first women’s match on a live ROH PPV. Maria Kanellis and ODB had a singles match at the 13th Anniversary Show back in early 2015, but that was before ROH officially restarted their women’s division a few months later. Now while the Women Of Honor haven’t exactly been getting a ton of praise for their in-ring work as of late, the match quality usually goes up when competitors from STARDOM are involved. When the dust settled on this particular eight-women tag, it ended up being pretty good. There were definitely some sloppy moments here are there (mostly from Tenille, interestingly enough), but for the most part, this was a very entertaining bout. Everyone involved got opportunities to shine, and there were never any lulls in the action. Mayu Iwatani and Hana Kimura had some cool exchanges towards the end were definitely a highlight, with the standout spot being Kimura countering a guillotine choke from Iwatani into a stalling vertical suplex, which led to a great nearfall. The fans were really into the bout in the closing minutes, and eventually Iwatani got the win for her team after hitting Kimura with a beautiful bridging dragon suplex. This was easily one of the best Women Of Honor matches of the year, and that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that half of the match was made up of STARDOM talent. ***1/2
Austin Aries def. Kenny King
It’s crazy to think that this is the first time Austin Aries has wrestled on a live ROH PPV, given his extensive history with the company. He went up against his former protege Kenny King, who accidentally cost Aries the ROH World TV Title on a recent episode of ROH TV. King came out wearing Cobra Kai inspired gear, while Ian Riccaboni mentioned that King is going to be on the next season of “Bachelor In Paradise”, so I suspect we’ll be hearing that get plugged more going forward. We did get a few comedic moments, mainly in the form of King “sweeping the leg” of Aries several times, but for the most part, this was a really good match. There was some very solid action throughout, with a number of cool spots thrown in. At one point, King actually caught Aries with a kick while the “collector of belts” was about to hit his Heat Seeking Missile dive, which was pretty crazy. Later on, King had the opportunity to nail Aries with the Royal Flush on the outside, but Aries begged him not to do it (saying that he was his friend), and after hearing this, King just threw him back in the ring. This led to another opportunity for King to really take it to Aries (this time with the Impact Wrestling World Title), but he once again refused. Aries took advantage of King’s indecisiveness, and killed him with a brainbuster on the floor. He followed up with a discus forearm and another brainbuster for the win. Once again, this was really good, and in the end, Aries was willing to do the things to win that his former partner wouldn’t do. I know a lot people don’t like the Kenny King, but he’s far from a bad wrestler, and when he’s in there with guys like Austin Aries, he can deliver. ***3/4
Jay Lethal def. KUSHIDA
As I mentioned in the preview for this PPV, Jay Lethal was looking to avenge a number of key losses from the previous year before he got his next shot at the ROH World Title. In the weeks leading up to Best In The World, Lethal scored victories over Punishment Martinez, Mark Briscoe, Matt Taven, and Chuckie T. KUSHIDA was the last foe that Lethal had to overcome, and he did so successfully after hitting the Lethal Injection. This was a fantastic match that featured some great back and forth action, along with a very good story. KUSHIDA refused to shake hands beforehand, and during the first portion bout, was acting a little bit heelish towards Lethal. This was best seen when KUSHIDA did some of Lethal’s signature offense (including the cartwheel dropkick, three consecutive dives to the floor, and even Lethal’s “Macho Man” salute). From there, both competitors tried to go after a specific body part in an attempt to set up a submission, with Lethal going after KUSHIDA’s leg in order to set up the Figure Four, while KUSHIDA targeted the arm of Lethal to set up the Hoverboard Lock. Things did slow down a bit in the middle portion of the bout, but it gradually picked up, and we got some great exchanges in the closing stages. There was a slight botch towards the end (Lethal tried to counter Back To The Future with a cutter, but it didn’t come off cleanly), but aside from that, this was an excellent bout that completed Lethal’s path to redemption. Both of these men are fantastic performers, so it shouldn’t be much of a shock that this was as awesome as it was. ****1/4
Lethal and KUSHIDA shook hands afterwards, which brought that story to a perfect conclusion.
ROH World TV Title – Baltimore Street Fight – Punishment Martinez (c) def. “The Hangman” Adam Page
Silas Young & The Beer City Bruiser joined the commentary team for this match. Well, I had a feeling that this would be a brutal affair, and that’s exactly what we got. These two just beat the crap out of each other for almost sixteen minutes, and it was extremely entertaining. Martinez (who was appropriately wearing jeans, while also sporting some face paint) brutalized Page at various points, with things like a Last Ride on the apron and a chokeslam onto the barricade (which looked very painful). Despite taking a ton of damage, “The Hangman” still took the fight to Martinez, as he hit a suplex off the barricade, and speared Martinez through a table on the outside. There’s too many spots to mention in this review, but again, this Street Fight was a lot of fun to watch. Towards the end, Martinez brought out thumbtacks, but he was the one that landed back first into the pile after a back body drop from Page. Despite taking that bump, Martinez was able to recover, and shortly thereafter, hit a chokeslam through a table for a win. That final pin was a little weird, because Martinez fell on top of Page in such a way that it made it look like there was a double pin. The announcers questioned it for a second, but then moved on. I don’t think that was really the intent. Martinez probably just fell a little further then he should have on that pin. Either way, these two put on an awesome Street Fight. Whenever ROH does these hardcore matches on big shows, they almost always deliver. This bout was no exception. ****
ROH World Tag Team Titles – The Briscoes (c) def. The Young Bucks
Coming into this show, you knew these two teams have the potential to tear the house down, and in the end, they did just that. This was an incredible tag team encounter from start to finish, with plenty of great action throughout. The match itself might’ve gone seventeen minutes or so, but they wrestled at such an excellent pace that there wasn’t really any downtime to speak of. The Young Bucks were awesome, as per usual, but The Briscoes were right there with them. I know the narrative is that The Briscoes are “washed up”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, they’ve had an underwhelming year (as someone who’s actually watched a lot of ROH this year, that’s a much more accurate statement), but they ALWAYS have fantastic matches with The Young Bucks, and this was certainly no exception.
I’d go so far as to say that this was one their best matches together, if not the best. That’s not only due to the wrestling we saw from both teams, but from the crowd reactions as well. While the majority of the fans in attendance were cheering for The Young Bucks, there was a small (but very vocal) minority in the crowd that was totally behind The Briscoes. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since Baltimore is essentially home turf for the nine-time ROH World Tag Team Champions. The atmosphere added to the match a ton. We did get a referee bump towards the end, when Mark Briscoe hit a flying elbow on Paul Turner to stop him from counting to three after The Young Bucks nailed Jay Briscoe with More Bang For Your Buck. However, that actually didn’t hurt the bout that much. Since Turner wasn’t totally out, he was still able to count the pins, but because he was hurt, the counts were just a tad slower (and the commentary made a point to mention this). That prevented The Young Bucks from winning after The Meltzer Driver, and it came back to bite The Briscoes soon thereafter when Jay Briscoe hit Matt Jackson with The Jay Driller on a chair.
This was a rare instance where a referee bump slightly enhanced a match, and the commentary team hammering that point home was very helpful, in that regard. The Briscoes retained after hitting the Redneck Boogie off the top rope onto Matt Jackson, and that concluded an absolutely stellar semi-main event. While The Young Bucks came up short here, they should be running away with any and all Tag Team Of The Year awards at this point. They’re just padding their resume at this point. ****1/2
Afterwards, The Briscoes attacked The Young Bucks. SoCal Uncensored then came out, and it appeared as though they were going to join in on the assault, but they attacked The Briscoes instead, and made it clear that they want the next shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles. I suppose this was meant to be a pseudo-face turn for SCU (who actually got a positive reception from the crowd after attacking The Briscoes), which is interesting, given their current storyline.
ROH World Title – Triple Threat Match – Dalton Castle (c) def. Cody & “The Villain” Marty Scurll
Scurll came out with different theme music, Cody came out wearing a Revolutionary War coat, and Dalton Castle’s entrance included pride flags. As a main event, this was far from the best match on the show. At the same time however, it was still a pretty good match, despite a number of shenanigans.
The fact that it was worked at a relatively quick pace was a big positive, in my book. Based on the story coming in, I figured that we’d get Cody & Marty Scurll working together for a bit before they inevitably turned on each, but we didn’t get that. Instead, Marty went after Cody almost immediately, and we ended up getting a bout that featured nonstop action. The fact that the main event started roughly fifteen minutes before the PPV was supposed to go off the air pretty much meant that it had to be quick, and honestly, I had no issues with that at all. It helped the match for sure, plus I don’t think anyone wants to see Cody in a match longer than fifteen minutes. The aforementioned shenanigans did take this down a bit for me. It just seemed like so much, especially in the middle of the match. Thankfully, all of the outside parties involved (Brandi Rhodes, The Boys, and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis) were all ejected. While that aspect was a drag for sure, all of the false finishes made up for it. There were so many moments where the match could’ve feasibly ended, and that added so much. All three did a great job with those spots. Eventually, Dalton Castle managed to retain the ROH World Title after pinning Marty Scurll (not Cody, of course, for obvious reasons) with the Bang-A-Rang. That was certainly the most surprising result of the night, given that Castle was a physical wreck (though I’ll go into more detail with that in a little bit). A title change felt like a lock in this situation, but it just….didn’t happen. The result aside, Castle did fine considering the circumstances, while Cody and Marty really held the match together. Opinions on this one are going to vary for sure, but as a whole, I thought it was very solid. ***1/2
Normally, my PPV review would end here, but considering what took place the following night, there’s one more thing I need to discuss.
ROH World Title – Four-Corner Survival Match – Jay Lethal def. Dalton Castle (c), Cody, & Matt Taven
This bout took place at the “Fairfax Excellence” TV Tapings in Fairfax, Virginia (which is just outside of Washington D.C.) the day after the Best In The World 2018 PPV. However, instead of being taped for ROH TV (though it still could show up on ROH TV), it was taped as an Honor Club Exclusive, and put up on the streaming service only a few hours later. I know there’s been a lot of criticism surrounding Honor Club (the general quality, the fact that it look ROH so long to even set up a streaming service), but at least on this occasion, ROH scored a huge win. They put a major ROH World Title bout up on Honor Club as an exclusive, and because of news regarding the result, it will make people sign up so they can see the title change. Again, it wouldn’t shock me if they do end up putting it on TV in the coming weeks. However, if it remains as a Honor Club exclusive, then that’s nothing short of a excellent move on ROH’s part.
Now, the match itself was actually very good. While it wouldn’t have been better than some of the awesome bouts from Best In The World, it was better than the Triple Threat Match that main evented the show. While all the participants involved worked hard, there were significantly less shenanigans, which was a big plus. Everyone had opportunities to shine, including Dalton Castle, who once again powered through a title defense despite all of his injuries. We did get another “Matt Taven conspiracy” moment, as Taven had Castle rolled up for nearly eight seconds, but Todd Sinclair was late to the count because he was checking on Jay Lethal. Taven was incensed by this, and pulled out Sinclair when it looked like Lethal had the match won. This all led to a big spot where Cody and Taven were put through a table (that Taven brought out) in a Tower Of Doom spot with Castle. With Cody and Taven out of the equation, the match came down to Castle vs. Lethal, and in the end, Lethal hit Castle with the Lethal Injection to capture the ROH World Title for the 2nd time. He’s now the 4th person to hold the title more than once (behind Adam Cole, Austin Aries, and Jay Briscoe). Again, the match was pretty enjoyable from start to finish, and it was better than the Best In The World main event, as least in my view. ***3/4
— Wrestling News World (@wnwnews) July 1, 2018
Of course, we were all expecting the ROH World Title to change hands this past weekend, but I don’t think any of us thought it would be at the TV Tapings the day after the PPV. Ultimately, while being overshadowed by The Bullet Club did play a role in the way Dalton Castle’s title reign was perceived (the defense at Supercard Of Honor XII was the biggest example), the main factor that led to Castle’s downfall was injury. It was obvious that Castle was hurt, just by seeing how much he was taped up, but when Ian Riccaboni (on commentary) and Dave Meltzer (on Wrestling Observer Radio) talked about the injuries, it makes you question how this guy was even cleared to wrestle. Castle’s injuries include, in no particular order:
- Torn Hamstring in his left leg (which has been visibly taped up for some time)
- A stress fracture in his lower back which (as Castle apparently explained to Ian Riccaboni) healed in such a way that it forced his L4 & L5 vertebrae to shift, causing nerve damage
- A displaced hip
- Neck Issues
- A broken finger in his right hand
- A broken right hand
When you realize that Castle’s injuries were THAT extensive, he had to drop the title. With that in mind, it makes you wonder why they didn’t do a title change on the PPV itself. While Cody seemed like a strong candidate to many, I was always against that idea, simply because he’s not the best wrestler (despite being excellent at everything else). As for Marty Scurll, he was my pick to be the next champion, but the fact that he got pinned by Castle seemingly means he’s out of contention for now. Putting the title back on Jay Lethal is interesting in many ways. In some regards, it made perfect sense. Lethal just finished his “path to redemption” at Best In The World, and you knew he was due a title shot. In a way, this was a further conclusion to that story, because if he had lost to Castle (or in the new champion’s first defense), he would’ve been back to square one. Lethal said in a promo before Best In The World that he felt lost without a title, but now, he’s fully completed his journey back to the top. Additionally, he’s a great choice as champion from an in-ring standpoint. When it comes to singles wrestler in ROH currently, Jay Lethal is arguably the best wrestler in the company right now (it’s either him or Scurll), so with him as champion, you’re guaranteed to have really good to great main events. I know some have soured on Jay Lethal over the last two years, but if you watch ROH regularly, you’ll realize this guy is still an excellent pro-wrestler. Best In The World? Absolutely not, but he always delivers in big matches, and I firmly believe that he’ll have a great reign as champion. It wish it was Scurll that got the nod, but Lethal will deliver.
Best In The World 2018 was a very strong PPV outing from ROH. There was really only one match on the card that I would consider subpar (and it could’ve been better had it had an actual finish). Aside from that, everything else ranged from good, to great, to fantastic. The card really hit its stride in the second half, with a number of awesome matches. Briscoes/Young Bucks had the match of the night, while Lethal/KUSHIDA and Martinez/Page weren’t that far behind. The main event was very solid, though there was no way it was going to be on the same level as some of the bouts that came before it. From start to finish, this was one of ROH’s best events of 2018.