9/30/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Adam Cole
The idea behind cross-promoting between ROH and NJPW is that the companies can put together dream matches that stand on their own without any narrative background. Sometimes, those matches feel like exhibitions, too disconnected from wrestling’s ongoing storylines to carry any real meaning. In the best cases, they feel like measuring sticks between comparable talents who push each other- and their companies- beyond what we usually see. ROH’s star-studded main event between two former champions fit into the latter category and will likely resurface on some Match of the Year lists in a few months.
Cole targeted Nakamura’s bad arm early in the match, but stayed mostly conservative with his offense to keep Nakamura out of his top gear. He fought off a couple of brief rallies with a series of superkicks to Nakamura’s legs and face for a near fall. He continued to work the legs and locked Nakamura in a Figure Four that he held from a long stretch before Nakamura reached the ropes. He continue the assault with leg whips that Nakamura sold beautifully.
Just as Cole set up for another Figure Four, Nakamura countered with a cross armbreaker. While Cole fought it off, Nakamura hit a partial Bomaye knee and a lung blower for his first sustained offense. They simultaneously kneed one another. Cole made it to his feet first and hit a Shining Wizard and then the Florida Keys, both for near falls. Nakamura finally blocked a suplex and hit a flying knee from the corner. They traded forearms until Nakamura hit an ax kick and a knee for a near fall of his own. Cole blocked an attempt at the Bomaye and spit on Nakamura. The insult only motivated Nakamura to hit a Landslide and a Bomaye to pull off the win.
It was a great match between two wrestlers who share the charisma, technical ability, and understanding of psychology to wrestle on the highest level. Even without major implications for title chases or rivalries in their home promotions, the wrestlers fully invested the crowd and viewers and brought it home brilliantly.
Matt Sydal def. Kushida
Kushida is most known in the United States for his Time Splitters tag team with Alex Shelley, but he has proven himself as an excellent singles wrestler in the recent past, as well. Anyone who doubts his chops should watch his performance in this year’s Best of Super Juniors tournament. Failing that, his match with Sydal this week is a good introduction to his singles work.
Early in the match, the wrestlers struggled to gain control while each countered or blocked the other’s major offense. Sydal weakened Kushida’s leg to provide him with a target and put him in a chancery to further injure it. Kushida struggled to hit a topez con giro to buy himself some time and took advantage with a moonsault. Sydal made it back to his feet to try a standing moonsault, but Kushida blocked it and briefly applied his signature Hoverboard Lock.
Sydal once again recovered with a reverse hurricanrana. He missed his Shooting Star Press, though he was able to again blocked the Hoverboard Lock. They traded big kicks until Sydal put Kushida down and successfully delivered the Shooting Star Press. It was a strong match and a surprise win for Sydal. His work has been strong since his return to ROH, but he has not broken through competitively. With his series against ACH ongoing, it will be interesting to see whether a win over the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion propels him to bigger things.
-I didn’t see Watanabe’s win in a four-corners tornado match coming at all. I assumed he and Will Ferrera were fodder for whichever of Adam Page or Moose would eventually win. Sure enough, Moose dominated most of the match and Page had his time to shine. Very suddenly, Watanabe strung together a German Suplex and an STO on Ferrera to get a big pin.
-Bushwacker Luke made a surprise appearance and helped Cheeseburger beat Brutal Bob with a battering ram. The Cheeseburger-Bob rivalry has taken up entirely too much air time, so I’m glad that it was shown as a highlight package and that Luke’s presence kept it light-hearted.
-In order to preserve the PPV-TV taping lineage, ROH will air highlights from Field of Honor on next week’s TV. These matches with NJPW stars came at a good time because the kept the TV matches entertaining without begging questions about the All-Star Extravaganza stories.