New Japan Pro Wrestling/Ring Of Honor
Honor Rising 2019: Night 2
February 23, 2019
Watch: NJPW World
Jonathan Gresham & Toa Henare def. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taka Michinoku)
Taka Michinoku cut a condensed version of his usual pre-match promo (in English, just like the night before), but once again, he got attacked before the bell, as it was Toa Henare who went after him this time. At twelve minutes, this got a little more time than I was expecting, but it was still a pretty enjoyable opener from start to finish. The bulk of the bout was centered around the technical exchanges between Zack Sabre Jr. and Jonathan Gresham. Of course, these two have faced off plenty of times in the past (most recently at Final Battle), so they were very familiar with each other. Gresham wowed the crowd in Korakuen Hall with some of his escapes, and he more than held his own against Sabre. Toa Henare and Taka Michinoku had their moments in this one as well, but Gresham was the start of this match. He got a big offensive flurry towards the end, and would’ve put Taka away with the Shooting Star Press is Sabre hadn’t broken up the pin attempt. Instead, Gresham tapped out Taka with the Octopus Hold. This was a fun way to kick on the show, and as I mentioned in my review of Night 1, I hope these performances lead to Gresham getting a spot in Best Of The Super Juniors this year. ***1/4
“The Villain” Marty Scurll def. Robbie Eagles
Robbie Eagles didn’t get to do much in the tag team bout he was involved in on Night 1, so it was nice to see him get a singles match on Night 2. Meanwhile, Marty Scurll was coming off a win over Ren Narita. I had a feeling this was going to be good, but when the dust settled, this ended up being much better than I was expecting. These two went right after each other as soon as the bell rang, and we got nonstop, back-and-forth action for close to nine minutes. Both guys busted out a number of big moves in an attempt to score the win. At one point, Scurll managed to hit the Scurll Driver (his variation of the package piledriver) for a nearfall. Shortly thereafter, Eagles connected with a big frankensteiner when both men were standing on the top rope. They continued to trade moves, but eventually, Scurll managed to lock in the Crossface Chickenwing, and Eagles tapped out immediately. This was a super entertaining sprint. I’m probably the high person on this match, but honestly, I had a blast watching it. They certainly made the most out of the time they were given. ***3/4
Colt Cabana & Toru Yano def. Cheeseburger & Delirious
Originally, this match was going to see Colt Cabana, Cheeseburger, and Delirious team up to take on a trio of Young Lions, but after what happened at the end of the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Title bout, plans changed. Instead, we got a tag team match with Cabana teaming up with Toru Yano (definitely a dream team) to take on Cheeseburger and Delirious. As expected, this one had a ton of comedic shenanigans (too many to list), and it was pretty entertaining to watch. All four guys played their roles well, and the crowd was into it from start to finish. This was ten minutes of pure fun. I’m sure there are some people out there who don’t like seeing a match like this in New Japan, but on a show like this, it’s completely harmless. Towards the end, Delirious gave Cabana a low blow (just like he did the night before), but it only got a two count. Cabana would go on to win after hitting the Cheeseburger with The Chicago Skyline. One of the reasons I brought up the low blow was that it led to a great moment in the post-match, where Yano had one of the Young Lions hold an ice bag on Cabana’s dick. That was pretty funny. As for the bout as a whole, I went with the gentleman’s three. A really enjoyable undercard comedy match. ***
CHAOS (NEVER Openweight Champion Will Ospreay & Hirooki Goto) def. ROH World TV Champion Jeff Cobb & Dalton Castle
These two sides were involved in title bouts the night before. In both instances, the champions retained their respective titles. It’s always a little weird to see tag team matches like this that take place after the title matches, but that’s just how New Japan books their undercards. Anyway, this was a very strong tag team contest that featured some really good action from start to finish. Jeff Cobb and Hirooki Goto started the match, and they picked up right where they left off the night prior. The same could be said for Will Ospreay and Dalton Castle, as they went after each other as soon as they got tagged in. Castle and Cobb actually controlled the match early, as they took turns hitting Ospreay with gutwrench suplexes, but a distraction from Goto allowed CHAOS to gain the upper hand. The action picked up down the stretch, and eventually, it came down to Cobb vs. Ospreay. They had a couple of great exchanges, but Ospreay gained the advantage after a headbutt from Goto. Ospreay connected with the Hidden Blade, and then was able to muster the stretch to lift Cobb up for the Storm Breaker (speaking of which, Ospreay posted a funny video on his Twitter of his parents reacting to the finish). This clocked in at just under twelve minutes, and much like the Marty Scurll/Robbie Eagles bout from earlier, they did everything they could with the time they were given. This didn’t quite crack four star territory for me, but it was very close. Cobb taking the fall here was very interesting, because it’s the first time that he’s suffered a loss on a ROH affiliated event since his debut with the company last year. With what happened at the end of this show, one must wonder if they’re planning on doing a Jeff Cobb/Will Ospreay singles bout at some point in the near future. You would see one champion pin another champion in a tag team match if there wasn’t some reason behind it. ***3/4
Los Ingobernables de Japon (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion Shingo Takagi) def. The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia)
At this point, Colt Cabana joined Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton on commentary. One thing I liked about this year’s Honor Rising cards was that we didn’t get all of the same talents from New Japan on both events. Night 1 featured people like Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi, and some of the Young Lions. On this show, we got pretty much all of LIJ, minus BUSHI. It definitely helped the two card stand apart from each other. As far as this match is concerned, the result was never really in question, as LIJ ultimately got the win here over The Kingdom. However, the actual wrestling we saw in the bout was relatively solid. The Kingdom jumped LIJ before the bell, and from there, a sizable chunk of the match was controlled by Matt Taven and Vinny Marseglia. They managed to isolate Naito (who worked in his T-Shirt for the entire match) for a few minutes, but he eventually made the tag to Shingo. He was able to get a few moves in, but then he got cut off by The Kingdom. This built to another hot tag, this time to Naito, and lucily, this led to the closing stretch where LIJ were just on a roll. The teamwork between Naito and Shingo (who were only teaming together in a two-on-two tag team bout for the second time) was just too strong for The Kingdom to handle. One Pumping Bomber and one Destino Later, Vinny Marseglia was looking up at the lights. This was on par with the main event from Night 1, and to be honest, I would give the slight edge to this one. It only went about twelve minutes, but there was a good amount of action in this one from start to finish. The Kingdom played their roles as heel well, while Naito and Shingo picked up their second win together as a tag team. Hopefully we’ll get to see those guys team up in these two-on-two tag team bouts more often, especially once New Japan decides to move Shingo up to the heavyweight division. ***1/4
ROH World Title
Jay Lethal (C) def. TK O’Ryan
Out of all the matches that were announced for these Honor Rising events, this was the one bout that stuck out like a sore thumb. It definitely fit with the larger feud between Jay Lethal and The Kingdom, but the expectations for this particular match weren’t that high going in. Plus, the result was incredibly predictable. Even though this did end up being the worst thing on the card, I wouldn’t call it bad. Lethal didn’t even wait for the bell to ring, as he took out TK O’Ryan with a big dive to the floor. Once the match got officially started in the ring, Lethal was firmly in control for the first few minutes. The crowd did seem to be behind Lethal at points (I’m sure teaming with both Okada and Tanahashi on Night 1 certainly helped him, in that regard), but whenever O’Ryan was on offense, they just didn’t react to him that much. Lethal ultimately got the win after hitting a Lethal Injection. This was relatively decent, but not memorable in any way. If anything, this came off more like a Jay Lethal showcase. The only other thing to really note is that, with this title defense, Lethal now holds the record for the most combined defenses of the ROH World Title with forty successful title defenses across his two reigns. When you combine that with recent achievement of breaking the combined days as ROH World Champion record, that means Jay Lethal (strictly from a statistics standpoint), is the greatest ROH World Champion in company history. **3/4
Almost immediately after the match ended, Matt Taven ran out and clocked Jay Lethal with the ROH World Title belt. This just continued the build towards their match at the 17th Anniversary Show in March.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – The Guerrillas of Destiny (with Jado) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (c)
Something I noticed during the entrances is that it seemed like a fair amount of people bought those miniature EVIL light up scythes. Anyway, a few weeks back, at The New Beginning In Osaka, The Guerrillas of Destiny defeated the Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano) in what was a de facto #1 Contender’s Match. Even though I wasn’t surprised to see G.O.D. challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles again (especially since they weren’t pinned in the three-way bout at Wrestle Kingdom), I was a little surprised to see this match on this show. By the end of the show, we would know why they did this match here, but in the moment, it seemed a little odd that this wasn’t happening at, say, New Japan’s 47th Anniversary Show. The match itself ended being pretty good, for the most part. It didn’t need to go twenty minutes, but they managed to pack in some really solid back-and-forth action. While there were decent exchanges in the first half, the pace seemed to slowed down a bit when they started crowd brawling.
The second half (up until Red Shoes got knocked down) featured several momentum swings, as both teams tried to hit that one big move to secure the win. Unfortunately, we did get shenanigans towards the end, which started when the aforementioned Red Shoes got knocked down. Jado (who hit SANADA with a kendo stick earlier in the bout) tried to get involved, but he was stopped. EVIL and SANADA tried to hit the Magic Killer on Jado, but they were stopped when Tama Tonga broke it up. What was weird about this whole bit was that the referee bump really didn’t lead to anything. Jado tried to get involved, and failed. Anyway, G.O.D. took out EVIL, hit SANADA with a 3D and the Super Powerbomb (the old tag team finisher of Gedo and Jado) to capture the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles for the fifth time. While Red Shoes was counting the pin, Jado choked EVIL with the Kendo Stick to prevent him from breaking up the pin. This result really shocked me. Given where they were going at the end of the show, one would think EVIL and SANADA would make much more sense for that spot. I’ll get into that more after I talk about the main event. As for this match, it was pretty good (as I said earlier), but it definitely had some noticeable flaws (the slows bits in the middle, a referee bump that seemed unnecessary, Jado getting involved) that kept it from being any better. ***1/2
ROH World Tag Team Titles
The Briscoes (c) def. Lifeblood (IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson & David Finlay)
I know there were some people who thought we might see a title change here, but to me, the result of this one was never in doubt. The Briscoes already had a title defense confirmed for ROH’s 17th Anniversary Show (against Brody King and PCO from Villain Enterprises). That being said, these two teams still managed to put together a very entertaining main event. It didn’t go quite as long as the previous bout (which was good), and there was really good action from start to finish. The Briscoes always work hard when they’re in Japan (particularly in a big spot), while Juice Robinson and David Finlay continue to impress me as a tag team. I knew that they weren’t going to win here, but I wouldn’t mind Robinson and Finlay getting a run with the ROH World Tag Team Titles in the future. The closing minutes of this one were particularly strong, as Lifeblood really took the fight to The Briscoes.
It was on its way to be the standout match on this show. Unfortunately, David Finlay appeared to get hurt in the closing moments during a spot where he and Juice hit a Doomsday Uppercut on one of The Briscoes. Finlay was the one doing the uppercut, but when he came down, his feet got caught on the ropes and he appeared to land awkwardly on his shoulder (he later confirmed that he dislocated his shoulder). The crowd seemed to recognize what had just happened, and The Briscoes got the win moments later after Mark hit Finlay with the Froggy Bow. Trainers quickly attended to Finlay, so you knew he was definitely hurt. Hopefully, he has a quick recovery. Even with the injury at the very end, these two teams still put on a very good main event. They didn’t deliver the great match that this show was lacking, but all four guys worked hard, and I can’t fault them for that. ***3/4
Afterward, Jay Briscoe took the mic, and proclaimed that The Briscoes are the baddest tag team on the planet. He then called out The Guerrillas of Destiny, and challenged them to a title vs. title match for MSG. G.O.D. came out and accepted the challenge, which led to the show closing with a standoff between the two teams. In hindsight, it was clear they were using these shows to build up to that announcement (especially when you consider that these teams couldn’t get along on Night 1). I don’t have an issue with doing a title vs. title match at MSG. It’s actually a pretty cool idea. However, I question why New Japan would put G.O.D. in this match. I’m sure they’ll have a good match with The Briscoes, but what’s odd is that both of these teams are heels in their respective promotions. It would’ve made more sense to put EVIL and SANADA in this match, since you would have a much easier heel/face dynamic. Is it possible that they took the titles off LIJ because they were going to be in the New Japan Cup? If that’s indeed the case, then it certainly makes a lot more sense. Why have your current IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in a tournament to determine a #1 Contender for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at MSG, when they already have an announced match for that same card? Regardless, I’m sure that these two teams will have a good match in MSG. It’ll be interesting to see what the dynamic is, in terms of how the crowd responds to it.
Night 2 of Honor Rising was a pretty consistent show from top to bottom. Jay Lethal vs. TK O’Ryan for the ROH World Title is the only bout that I would classify as skippable. Everything else ranges from entertaining to really good. This show didn’t have that standout match like Night 1 did, but there were a number of bouts that came close, including the main event, Will Ospreay & Hirooki Goto vs. Jeff Cobb & Dalton Castle, and even Marty Scurll vs. Robbie Eagles. The rest of the undercard featured some entertaining matches, and as a whole, this show was incredibly easy to watch.