(Note from John: This is the second review for Webb and I liked it a lot. He will be our regular Ring of Honor reviewer. Welcome to the team!)
I am proud to be reviewing the weekly Ring of Honor television show for the second time. I’ll work on a catchy name and intro as well if this can develop and become a weekly addition to the TJR Wrestling line up. For now let’s just focus on the wrestling!
We’re back in the Ted Reeve Arena this week in front of another hot Toronto crowd. Nigel McGuinness joins Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino on commentary.
Mr. ROH himself Roderick Strong is up first. Nigel Mcguinness mentions his first match against CM Punk in ROH and how everyone knew he was a star even then. His opponent tonight is none other than Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura is another wrestler I recently discovered and his match with Kota Ibushi at WrestleKingdom 9 is the match of the year for me and it’s really not even close. This guy oozes charisma like no one else in the business today and has that rare ability to break language barriers and could appeal to an American audience like no other Japanese star has been able to do thus far. I don’t read any spoilers for the ROH tapings, so I can get the most out of their weekly show and matches like this make me glad I don’t. I had no idea this is happening and I have no idea who is going to win. This should be a good one!
Roderick Strong vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Big Nakamura chants as he gets in the ring and does his trademark pose on the ring ropes. Streamers litter the ring as the chants ring on. This guy is a big deal and the Toronto fans are well aware. We get a handshake to start off as the two head to adjacent corners and ease into the tie up. Pretty noticeable size difference between these two as Nakamura towers over Strong. We start off with some of that great chain wrestling I was expecting as Strong goes for an early pinning combination only to get a one count. Strong controls with a hammerlock as they work back to their feet. Nakamura gets the ropes to force a break as Strong backs off. The charisma of Nakamura shines through every second he’s in the ring. He’s got such an expressive face and these exaggerated gestures that give him a unique and instantly recognizable demeanor within the ring. This guy is a star and he knows it. They ease into another tie up and Nakamura backs Strong up to the ropes. Strong hits a snapmare which Nakamura rolls through and lands on his feet. Strong takes charge with a dropkick and gets another one count. Dueling chants now as the two exchange another flurry of blows ending in Strong hitting an Olympic slam and getting another quick kick out. Nakamura rolls out of the ring and pulls a veteran move to take control. Strong has his head over the apron and Nakamura hits a big running knee and another big knee to the back of the head. Strong takes yet another knee which sends him over the barricade out amongst the fans as we cut to the first commercial break.
Strong and Nakamura are both back in the ring exchanging blows as we come back. This is the usual elbow exchange until Nakamura flips the script and lays a vicious one right to the side of Strong’s head which sends him to the floor. Good psychology here to showcase Nakamura’s MMA striking ability. Strong hits a spinning back elbow out of nowhere and takes control of the match again but he’s really selling the elbow. We’ve got some color here as Strong is busted open but he manages to stay in control and hits a double knee to the back of Nakamura which the announcers put over really well. “This is awesome” chant and I have to agree. Strong goes for a Strong hold but Nakamura hits a unique counter into a sleeper but Strong fights to his feet only to be hit with a single leg backstabber. Nakamura then uses a vicious flipping suplex to turn Strong inside out. Nakamura teases the Bome ye but Strong is ready for it. Nakamura winds up dazed on the top rope and Strong heads up for unique backbreaker on the turnbuckle variant. He gets a near fall and goes for a vertical suplex. Nakamura reverses and hits the bome ye from the middle rope. Both men are down as we get a “this is wrestling” chant. Strong gets up and hits a double knee gut buster but goes for a running knee of his own. He misses but catches a kick from Nakamura and reverses into a strong hold. Nakamura fights to the ropes as the two slowly work to their feet and trade elbows in the middle of the ring again. Nakamura once again goes for that knockout blow but Strong is ready this time. He counters and hits a flying big boot that nearly sends Nakamura’s jaw into Kevin Kelly’s lap. Strong hits a vertical suplex into a backstabber combo and gets a very close near fall. The crowd is electric and Strong appears to be firmly in control. Nakamura counters another suplex variant into the bome ye but Strong kicks out. Both men end up in opposite corners and Nakamura charges in for another knee but Strong hits a knee of his own which only grazes Nakamura. Strong hits the ropes to charge back but Nakamura counters into another head on Knee strike and we get a 1-2-3 and a pin fall.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Analysis: Wow my head is spinning after trying to follow that one. The back and forth as well as the pacing was amazing. I’m not in to star ratings but as far as TV matches that are merely exhibitions go I don’t see how it could have been any better. They told a great story here and these two are truly masters of the craft.
Up next is another NJPW star Gedo. His opponent is the home town boy Michael Elgin. We get a tale of the tape for this match, which I’m a big fan of especially when I’m not familiar with one of the wrestlers and any little bit of information about him will go a long way towards pulling me in to the match.
Michael Elgin vs. Gedo
We open with a handshake but Elgin quickly shows his power and slings Gedo across the ring. Elgin mocks Elgin and easily counters most of his offense. Gedo takes a slight advantage using his quickness but Elgin hits a big fall away slam and regains control. We get a stalling vertical suplex that lasts an amazing 32 seconds by the fan count. Elgin shows a little frustration when Gedo kicks out, but never loses control as he continues to work over Gedo. He heads up for a big moonsault but misses the move as both men slowly get to their feet. Gedo uses his speed to take charge and hits a kick to the head of Elgin that gets him a 2 count. Gedo hits a little flurry but Elgin hits a quick buckle bomb and his signature spinning sit down powerbomb. 1-2-3 and this one is quickly in the books.
Winner: Michael Elgin
Analysis: More or less a squash here. The veteran Gedo puts over Elgin on his home turf and it made Elgin look like a monster. It’s a simple story that wasn’t overthought or overbooked and I’m grateful for that. I’m watching wrestling for a reason and sometimes I just want to see a big guy clobber the hell out of a little guy.
We get a little hype for the main event as we go to commercial. It will be a 6 man tag match between AJ Styles and the Young Bucks taking on the Rainmaker Okada and Roppongi Vice. This should be another good one.
Okada, Rocky Romero, and Trent Baretta enter first and seeing Okada was another surprise for me tonight. Maybe it was the excellent production quality of Wrestle Kingdom 9 but Okada, along with Tanahashi and Nakamura, came across as true wrestling stars on that PPV and every time I see these guys I get the same feeling that I am seeing something truly special.
Bullet Club is up next and they are in full force with Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson joining the 3 men competing in the match. AJ Styles is rocking that IWGP heavyweight Title like a boss and it is one impressive looking belt with a storied history. Bullet Club has really taken off and is still really fresh for the American audience. If they play their cards right they could have a real moneymaker on their hands with this group of talented wrestlers.
AJ Styles, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson vs. Okada, Rocky Romero, and Trent Baretta
Okada and Styles start this off. These two have had some great matches on the past and have excellent chemistry. On July 5th Okada will challenge AJ Styles for the IWGP Heavyweight Title in Japan. They tie up, trade arm drags, and pinning attempts where they really show how familiar these two are with each other. Trent and Matt get the tags and tie up in the center of the ring. Flurry of offense from both until Trent hits a northern lights suplex after bouncing Nick off the top rope. Tag to Rocky starts a double team beat down to the young buck as we get a quick tag back to Trent. He taunts before getting in the ring and Matt Jackson decided to unleash the first super kick of the night right to Baretta on the apron. Matt gets the tag in shows some charisma as he works in the one foot pin and the “come on baby” shout Chris Jericho made famous. He also spits on Okada as he works over Baretta in his corner. AJ Styles gets the tag as he continues the beat down on Trent Baretta as we cut to commercial.
We return to the Bucks continuing the beat down on Trent Baretta. Trent calls to the corner and nearly gets the tag to Okada but Styles pulls Okada off the apron just in time. Nick Jackson attempts a Swanton Bomb but Trent gets the knees up. He gets the hot tag to Romero who flies over the top rope and proceeds to clear the ring in dramatic fashion. Okada and Styles are now the legal men and Okada really takes it to Styles, hitting a kip up as he brings the fight to Styles. Everyone gets involved at this point as craziness ensues while the camera cuts from one high impact move to the next.
We wind up with Styles and Okada back in the ring as the legal men with Styles hitting a Bloody Sunday before setting up the Styles Clash. Okada counters to a tombstone and hits the rainmaker pose from his knees. Nick Jackson hits a sneaky tag and Romero also gets the tag. Everyone gets involved again and the Bucks hit some impressive double team maneuvers on Romero and a near fall but Trent gets a slick tag in as well. He hits a top rope german suplex on Nick Jackson, Romero hits a suicide dive on Styles, and Okada hit a Macho Man like elbow drop onto Matt Jackson in the middle of the ring. We get a rainmaker pose and a rainmaker clothesline setup but AJ Styles flies over the top rope to break it up. He sets up a Styles clash on Baretta but it is interrupted by a super kick that is reversed into a styles clash which is broken up by an Okada dropkick. Did you get all that? Good. Everyone is down at this point as a “This is Awesome” chant fills the arena. The announcers don’t know who the legal men are and I don’t either. More super kicks and brawling before a double super kick/Pele kick from the entire bullet club team to Okada. The Young Bucks then proceed to pile drive the hell out of Baretta, hitting a picture perfect Meltzer driver to cap it off. Styles set up the Styles clash before hitting Trent with another double super kick and then hitting the styles clash. 1-2-3 and I think Trent Baretta might just be dead after all of that.
Winners: AJ Styles, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson
Analysis: I knew it was going to be tough to keep up with this one and I was definitely right. This was a great exhibition between some of NJPW’s biggest stars and it did not disappoint. There was never a dull moment in this contest and all 6 men did an excellent job. There was a little continuation for the Okada/Styles NJPW storyline here but for the most part it was just another showcase of great wrestling for some really great fans.
This was an amazing show that really benefited from the ROH/NJPW partnership. You can’t have cards like these all the time though because the infrequency is what makes these match ups special. This didn’t feel like a regular ROH TV taping and the jury is out on whether this was the exception or the more like the new normal now that the Destination America deal is in place. ROH really upped their game with this show and it was all about the wrestling. In ring action is the bread and butter of Ring of Honor and tonight they really delivered. They sure as hell captivated me for an hour.
If you want to watch, but don’t have Destination America there are other options. I can only speak for what’s available in the US, but your local TV stations may air this on the weekends and if you don’t have cable a digital TV antennae may pick these up even if you live in a rural area. ROH also streams their weekly show on their website www.rohwrestling.com if that option works best for you.
I hope to continue with these and would appreciate any feedback I can get. My goal here is to write something that people enjoy reading so if you have an idea that would help me out I would love to hear it! Feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on twitter @webbanderson2 and comment below as well!