Ring of Honor 14th Anniversary Review – Uneven Booking Creates Mixed-Bag PPV

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2/26/16 – Scott Strandberg – @wrestlerosters

Jay Lethal (c) (w/ Truth Martini and Taeler Hendrix) def. Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly in a triple threat to retain the ROH World Heavyweight Championship

Match Grade: B+

O’Reilly and Cole teamed up on Lethal early, but O’Reilly came up empty on a dive to the outside, leaving Lethal and Cole in the ring. Lethal hit a snap suplex, and Cole set up to respond with a fisherman buster, but O’Reilly got back in the ring and added a German suplex to the mix. Cole hit a German of his own on O’Reilly, earning a two-count.

Cole landed an enziguiri on Lethal, followed by a fireman’s carry neckbreaker on O’Reilly for another near-fall. Lethal came back with a springboard dropkick to Cole, and O’Reilly hit a double missile dropkick on both Cole and Lethal. O’Reilly hit a Regalplex on Cole, but Lethal broke up the pinfall.

Cole plented a superkick on O’Reilly and a shining wizard on Lethal, with Lethal kicking out at two. The action spilled outside, and O’Reilly set up both Cole and Lethal on a chair. Lethal got out of the way just in time, as O’Reilly flew off the apron and dropkicked Cole.

Lethal hit O’Reilly with a superkick, then followed up with three dives between the ropes on both Cole and O’Reilly. Truth entered the ring for a spinarooni, and Lethal reversed Cole’s destroyer attempt into a Lethal Combination. Lethal set up for the Lethal Injection, but Cole pushed O’Reilly into the way, and O’Reilly took the Lethal Injection.

Cole threw O’Reilly from the ring instead of going for the pinfall, hitting Lethal with a neckbreaker off his knee. Cole retrieved O’Reilly and brought him back to the ring, and at this point even Nigel McGuinness on commentary was expressing his confusion over Cole’s weird aversion to attempting pinfalls. O’Reilly hit a tilt-a-whirl DDT and a brainbuster on Lethal, who kicked out as O’Reilly transitioned into a triangle choke.

Cole tried to make the save, but O’Reilly trapped him in an ankle lock, keeping the triangle choke locked in on Lethal. As Lethal’s arm was about to fall for the third time, Cole caught his hand and held it up, preventing Todd Sinclair from calling for the bell. Cole and Lethal hit tandem superkicks on O’Reilly, who bounced back into a double rebound clothesline.

O’Reilly tried for a brainbuster on Cole, who reversed it into a neckbreaker. Lethal nailed Cole with a stiff superkick, then hit a double Lethal Injection on both his opponents, pinning Cole to retain his title.

Scott’s Thoughts: I only have two issues with this match: 1) Since when are ROH Title matches — in the main event of a PPV — booked for less than 13 minutes from bell to bell? 2) What the hell was Cole thinking toward the end there? His actions made zero sense in kayfabe, as he neglected to attempt pinfalls on O’Reilly and Lethal after each man had taken a finisher.

Those issues aside, all three men worked a frantic match that was certainly never boring, but as with the TV Title match earlier in the show, I would have appreciated a longer timeslot to allow for a slower buildup. With as much pure filler as there was on this show, at least two matches could have gotten the axe to allow more time for the title matches.

The Elite (Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks) def. Matt Sydal, Kushida and ACH by pinfall to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championships

Match Grade: A-

As Omega entered, he set down a broom in the empty third commentary chair, putting a headset on it before heading to the ring. ACH knocked down the Bucks with dropkicks, adding an elbow drop on Omega. Sydal hit a running hurricanrana on Omega, then a double hurricanrana on the Bucks.

Nick kicked Sydal off the apron, into the arms of Omega on the floor, who caught Sydal and bridged into a German suplex on the entrance ramp. Omega got back in the ring for just long enough to take out ACH and Kushida with a plancha. Omega hit a backbreaker on Sydal, and The Bucks added a tandem swinging neckbreaker.

Sydal finally answered with a step-up enziguiri on Nick, making the hot tag to Kushida. Matt tried to hold Kushida down, but he wriggled out of the way just as Omega delivered an accidental big boot to Matt. Kushida landed an enziguiri and a backbreaker on Omega, then flipped off the top rope to take out the Bucks at ringside.

Kushida hit a top-rope moonsault on Omega and tried to lock in a submission, but Omega picked up his dead weight and threw him into tandem enziguiris from the Bucks. Omega added a sitout powerbomb for a close near-fall, but Kushida reached ACH as Matt tagged in. ACH planted Matt with a tornado DDT and a stunner, but Nick made the save.

Nick hit a springboard sitout facebuster on ACH, who quickly recovered to hit a step-up plancha to the outside. Back in the ring, ACH hit a double footstomp on Matt, who kicked out at two. Kushida took out all three members of The Elite with elbow strikes, but ate a triple superkick for his troubles.

Sydal and ACH both got their own superkicks courtesy of the Bucks, who followed up with a rope-hung swanton bomb on Sydal. Omega hit a double-underhook snap suplex on Sydal, and The Elite hit him with a triple superkick, but ACH made the save. Omega hit a running senton, but Sydal got his knees up to block the springboard moonsault.

Sydal nailed Nick with a hurricanrana, then took Matt up top for a gorgeous moonsault slam. Matt took a flying shooting star press from ACH, while Kushida simultaneously landed a standing moonsault. Omega and Nick made the save, and Omega took Kushida outside, where he destroyed him with a piledriver onto the floor.

Back in the ring, the Bucks hit a Meltzer Driver, with Omega adding a One Winged Angel. The Elite triple-pinned Sydal to finish the match.

Scott’s Thoughts: When it comes to pure entertainment value in modern-day professional wrestling, The Elite live up to their new moniker in every way possible. The six matches leading up to this one were all in the decent-to-good range — leaving me feeling a bit worn out and disinterested — but The Elite still managed to recapture my attention and bring me back into the show. A predictably exciting whirlwind of a match, which perfectly suited the men booked to perform it.

War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) def. All Night Express (Kenny King and Rhett Titus) by pinfall in a street fight to retain the ROH Tag Team Championships

Match Grade: B+

Titus and King tried for tandem planchas to open the match, but Rowe and Hanson caught them and tossed them into each other. Titus recovered and hit an enziguiri on Rowe, who fought back with an overhead suplex onto the floor. Meanwhile, Hanson hit a back bodydrop on King, sending him through a table.

Inside the ring, War Machine teamed up relentlessly on Titus, then propped up chairs in every corner of the ring. King and Titus took advantage of the recovery time, driving Hanson and Rowe face-first into two chairs each. Titus put a trashcan on Hanson’s head and King hit him with a spinning heel kick, earning a near-fall.

Hanson fought back with a spinning side slam on Titus, and Rowe slammed Hanson on top of Titus. Titus hit Hanson with a dropkick, but Hanson answered with another spinning side slam. King landed an enziguiri on Hanson, and Titus hit Rowe with a Famouser onto a chair.

War Machine hit Fallout, but King surprisingly kicked out of the very well-protected finisher. Hanson climbed back up top, but King hit him with a chair and put him through a table. Titus held up Rowe for One Night Stand, and King connected. Still, Rowe kicked out of the finisher, as King kicked out of War Machine’s moments earlier.

Rowe set up a ladder between the apron and the barricade, and hit a urinage on King, sending him through the ladder. War Machine hit Fallout on Titus back in the ring, earning the pinfall.

Scott’s Thoughts: Despite the crowd’s clear confusion regarding who to cheer for, I thoroughly enjoyed this match. The violence escalated at a rate perfectly befitting a street fight match, with plenty of big spots providing the landmarks for pacing.

This feud was a bit odd from the start, because War Machine just doesn’t seem to be connecting with audiences right now, and All Night Express is a popular team, so the split crowd led to awkward silence several times. Still, I personally liked this match quite a bit, and thought that all four men looked great.

Tomohiro Ishii (c) def. Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish to retain the ROH World Television Championship in a triple threat match

Match Grade: B-

Ishii entered the match as the champion, having won the title from Strong last week at Honor Rising in Japan. Strong attacked both his opponents before the bell rang, then hit Ishii with a belly-to-back side suplex. Fish fought back by hitting an exploder suplex on Strong, sending Roddy flying into Ishii.

Ishii took Fish up top and hit him with a delayed vertical brainbuster from the second rope. Ishii bridged a powerbomb into a pin attempt, and Strong clearly expected Fish to break up the pinfall, because he did not kick out and the referee awkwardly stopped his count with Strong still on the mat. Strong hit a double-knee gutbuster and a Sick Kick, but Ishii kicked out.

Roddy transitioned into the Strong Hold, which Fish broke up. Ishii hit a sliding lariat and a brainbuster on Strong to retain the title.

Scott’s Thoughts: I love Ishii, and the idea of having him around in ROH for an extended period is exciting. Still, this match just wasn’t anything to write home about, despite having three great workers in the ring. I think they could have benefited from at least an extra five minutes, because the match was basically the same (relatively fast) pace from bell to bell.

If given more time, Ishii/Strong/Fish could have developed the pacing better, but this was just a bit too one-note for my liking. Considering the huge amount of filler that ended up on this card, it’s a head-scratcher that ROH didn’t cut something else to give this more minutes.

Alex Shelley def. Christopher Daniels (w/ Frankie Kazarian) by pinfall

Match Grade: B

The Brian Kendrick sat in on commentary, which was very exciting for this fan of the former interim WWE Champion. Shelley opened the match with a back bodydrop, followed by a basement dropkick. Kazarian made a distraction, but Daniels accidentally hit him instead of Shelley.

Shelley hit a diving crossbody from the top rope onto the floor on both members of The Addiction. Once they got back in the ring, Daniels hit an STO, but came up empty on a springboard elbow drop. Daniels hit a falcon arrow, then bridged a springboard moonsault into a crossface.

Shelley grabbed the bottom rope to break the hold, and Kazarian took advantage of another distraction to throw in a cheap-shot guillotine leg drop. Shelley fought back with a baseball kick to Kazarian and an enziguiri to Daniels, followed by a top-rope crossbody for a near-fall. Daniels came up empty on a moonsault and ate a superkick from Shelley, but Kazarian made yet another distraction.

As Shelley attempted to fight off Kazarian, Chris Sabin entered and hit an enziguiri on Daniels. Shelley rolled up Daniels in a modified crucifix to earn the pinfall. After the match, Sabin and Shelley fought off The Addiction, reuniting Motor City Machine Guns.

Scott’s Thoughts: The ending of this storyline was predictable all along, but the payoff was still entertaining. It will be fun to see what MCMG can do as a reunited team. The match itself was solid, but there was so much interference that it was less than spectacular booking.

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin def. The Briscoe Brothers by pinfall

Match Grade: B-

Elgin and Tanahashi planted the Briscoes with tandem delayed vertical suplexes, and Mark hit Elgin with a blockbuster off the apron. Mark nailed Tanahashi with a side Russian legsweep, followed by a death valley driver. Jay tagged in for a DVD of his own, but Elgin broke up the pinfall.

Tanahashi finally fought back with a springboard crossbody, making the hot tag to Elgin. Elgin hit two German suplexes to Mark, and one to Jay for good measure. Mark tried for a diving crossbody, which Elgin reversed into a sideslam for two.

Elgin hit a German suplex on Mark, but Jay hit a frog splash to nearly earn Mark the pinfall. Elgin tossed Mark from the ring and tagged in Tanahashi, but Mark hit him with a uranage, which Jay followed with a neckbreaker. Mark hit Froggy Bow, but Tanahashi kicked out. The Briscoes tried for a Doomsday Device, but Elgin broke it up. Tanahashi hit Mark with a Sling Blade, Elgin added a powerbomb, and Tanahashi finished Mark off with High Fly Flow.

Scott’s Thoughts: Despite the talent involved, there wasn’t much of a build to this match, and it came off just like the random tag match that it was. I enjoyed it for what it was, but a strong tag match with little story behind it isn’t exactly a rare occurrence.

Kazuchika Okada (w/ Gedo) def. Moose (w/ Stokely Hathaway) by pinfall

Match Grade: C-

Moose hit a dropkick, followed by his signature corner dropkick off the turnbuckle. Moose took Okada outside and drove him into the barricade and ring post, but Okada countered, dumping Moose into the crowd and hitting him with a running crossbody. Okada hit a DDT, which Moose entirely no-sold, bouncing immediately back up.

Moose hit a clothesline, a powerbomb, a buckle bomb and a big boot, earning a near-fall. Okada dodged a spear and hit a flapjack, then followed up with an over the back shoulderbreaker. Okada hit a flying elbow drop, but missed with the Rainmaker.

Moose responded with a nice springboard crossbody, but Okada answered with two dropkicks and the Rainmaker, putting Moose away.

Scott’s Thoughts: It’s always a treat to see a wrestler on Okada’s level on my TV, but I had issues with this match on many levels. First — and this is an issue which permeates most of these cross-promotional PPVs — why, in kayfabe, did the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion travel to America to wrestle Moose? I do the ROH reviews for this website every single week, but I have no idea why this match happened.

Wrestling isn’t just about the in-ring action, which is why promotions run storylines. Otherwise, nothing means anything, and it all feels like a house show. Whether you found the matches personally entertaining or not, can you tell me why Okada wrestled Moose, or Goto wrestled Dalton?

As for the actual match, Moose’s greenness showed through more clearly than it has in a while. Okada frequently had to wait for Moose to position himself before performing maneuvers, which disrupted the flow considerably. I also very much disliked Moose no-selling Okada’s DDT. I enjoyed the finish, but that was about it.

If Kazuchika Okada is going to make the trip over from Japan, can’t we give him something better to do than a throwaway filler match against a guy who started wrestling less than three years ago? Apparently not.

Hirooki Goto def. Dalton Castle by pinfall

Match Grade: B

Castle entered with an entourage of six boys to a thunderous ovation from the Las Vegas crowd. Dalton hit a T-bone suplex, but Goto fought back with a diving elbow. Goto tried for a second-rope maneuver, but Castle caught him and flipped him off his shoulders.

Goto responded with a running heel kick and a Saito suplex for a near-fall. Dalton answered with a rebound hurricanrana and a top-rope missile dropkick, but Goto kicked out. Castle followed up with an impressive double-armtrap bridging German suplex for a very close near-fall.

Goto hit a knee-strike neckbreaker, but Dalton again kicked out. Goto continued his attack with his Shouten Kai vertical suplex sitout sideslam finisher, polishing Castle off.

Scott’s Thoughts: Dalton Castle is one of my favorite wrestlers in any promotion right now. He’s one of the most uniquely charismatic characters in wrestling history. Still, Goto held the NJPW Intercontinental Championship as recently as September, so it makes sense for him to go over here. An entertaining midcard match which met expectations for its spot on the show.

BJ Whitmer def. Adam Page by pinfall

Match Grade: C-

Page clotheslined Whitmer from the ring, set up Whitmer on a chair, and nailed him with a running dropkick. Whitmer fought back, dropping Page on his spine onto the barricade. Back in the ring, Whitmer hit a vertical suplex, following up with a side suplex for two.

Page dropkicked Whitmer into the turnbuckle, but Whitmer reached the ropes before referee Todd Sinclair counted three. Whitmer delivered a scoopslam for another near-fall, and the action spilled back outside. Page hit a shooting star from the apron and tossed Whitmer back inside.

Page threw a chair into the ring, but Sinclair took it away. As Sinclair disposed of the chair, Whitmer hit a low blow and used an inside cradle to pin Page. After the match, Page beat up a bunch of security guards in anger, and hit Rite of Passage on one of them.

Scott’s Thoughts: For as much TV time as ROH has devoted to this feud, I just haven’t cared at any point. It seemed like the fans in attendance agreed with me. ROH usually does a good job of booking lowcard feuds, but this one has gone on for far too long.

Other Notes:

  • Mr. Wrestling III did commentary in a hilarious, bedazzled Elvis-style white jacket, with no shirt underneath. For as much as I love Steve Corino, Mr. Wrestling III has done a great job of filling in during his hiatus.

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