The Cabarrus Arena brings us ROH’s first big event of the year. Now free of The Elite, how does ROH start to rebuild their brand?
North Carolina used to be a hot bed for wrestling, so with ROH trying to rebuild their title pictures, will the heart of some of the beloved 80s wrestling help to breathe life into Ring of Honor?
We all know I’m not the biggest fan of ROH, but I’m always willing to be impressed and swayed into a different head space.
Let’s see if this show does that.
- Shinobi Shadow Squad vs Corey Hollis, Josey Quinn & John Skyler – Shinobi Shadow Squad wins via Oyasuminasai – * 1/2
- Beer City Bruiser vs Mark Haskins – Haskins wins via Double Footstomp – **
- Best Friends vs FinJuice – Finlay wins via Trust Panda – ** 3/4
- Tracy Williams vs Flip Gordon – Williams wins via referee calling the match due to Flip injury – N/A
- Proving Grounds Match: Hurricane Helms, Luchasaurus & Delirious vs The Kingdom – Kingdom wins via House of 1000 Horses – * 1/2
- Bandido vs PJ Black – Bandido wins via Revolution Fly – *
- 4 Corners Survival Instant Rewards Proving Ground Match: Rhett Titus vs Shane Taylor vs Jonathan Gresham vs Jeff Cobb – Cobb wins via Tour of the Islands – *** 1/4
- Women of Honor Championship Street Fight: Jenny Rose vs Kelly Klein (c) – Klein retains via K Power on a pile of chairs – * 1/2
- Marty Scurll, Brody King & PCO vs Silas Young & The Briscoes – PCO wins via PCO Moonsault – *** 3/4
- ROH World Championship Match: Jay Lethal (c) vs Dalton Castle – Lethal retains via Lethal Injection – ***
- Soo…Skyler, Hollis and Quinn kick things off with an open challenge to anyone since they’re the best trio in ROH apparently. Cheeseburger brings out his newer trio of the Shinobi Shadow Squad….and I guess we’re supposed to care. Some sporadic moves, Skyler and that team try to control the match but, after Cheeseburger, Eli Isom and Ryan Nova tag in and out a little more fluidly. They hit their triple move called Oyasuminasai (Goodnight in Japanese), and that’s that.
- Mark Haskins is still a new name to ROH and Bruiser seems to play the Gatekeeper role with a few of the newer guys. Bruiser tells Haskins this is America, we fight, not that fancy British shit. And we see a little more of a slugfest than Haskins is most likely accustomed to. Every time Bruiser went to the top rope, it cost him the momentum he had. So a big missed Vader Bomb and Frog Splash gave Haskins enough time and opportunity to hit his Double Footstomp.
- Best Friends still have a few tentative moments with Chuckie’s instability as of late, and FinJuice is on the rise. Juice recently put together a new stable called Lifeblood with Bandido, Tracy Williams, Haskins, Finlay and Tenille Dashwood. So all of the Lifeblood members are prolly in for a good night. The match was fun, solid and Chuckie kept it together even though Finlay got the win on Chuck. Decent match.
- What can I say, he threw a drop kick, came up gimpy and the announcers brought up something about him nursing the knee for a while. So I guess we’ll see where this goes, but that’s another win for Lifeblood, technically.
- Every time the Kingdom is on, I feel an overwhelming urge to take a nap or walk away for 15 minutes. Vinny even holds back Luchasaurus and Hurricane with the Jurassic World “keeping the raptors back” kind of motion. Lots of dumb gimmicks, not a lot of wrestling or fluidity to the match. It’s stuff like this that is mostly why I have an issue tolerating Ring of Honor.
- Uuughh….spotty at first which I expected, but also very botchy and sloppy. This match could’ve been great, but just didn’t work. Another win for Lifeblood though. But this was awful. Also didn’t help that they finally pulled back on the camera to show the floor seems full but the rest of the building is pretty empty.
- Shane Taylor says the 4 Way match is an insult so he walks out, and the match becomes a Triple Threat. Gresham and Titus take turns trying to take out Cobb, eventually Cobb gets knocked out of the ring and Titus dominates Gresham. Rhett is in the best shape he’s been probably ever. But Cobb breaks up the pin attempt and finishes Titus. Silas Young distracts Cobb after the match and Shane returns to jump Cobb and hold up the belt as the age old symbol of “I got next”.
- Kelly comes out with her “Camp Klein”, and they play a small role in the match, but it’s kinda awkward. Kelly is great, don’t get me wrong here. But Rose really isn’t and that makes the whole match awkward. The table didn’t break so Kelly calls an audible and Rose was visibly nervous and Kelly had to communicate too many times too obviously. Hopefully Kelly’s matches get better.
- Okay now this was the first match to really catch my attention. Mark Briscoe tried out his Redneck Kung Fu on PCO, and that was a fun battle. A lot of car crash style moments, and Young tried to Canadian Destroyer PCO on the apron and that didn’t work correctly, but no one got hurt, so it was just a hold your breath moment. Villain Enterprises established themselves nicely and PCO pinning Jay Briscoe most likely lines up a tag team title shot in the future. So between Brody King pulling off an Arabian Moonsault Arm Wringer Toss…thing…it was quite cool since Brody is like 6’5″. Damn good match though.
- Nick Aldis and Camille show up to cut a promo. Typical Aldis 10 Pounds of Gold…integrity, tradition…stuff. Also made mention of the Crockett Cup and that it will be in this same place April 27.
- Dalton tried to start off quickly with some tosses and suplexes, but he still has his waist bandaged so Lethal had a big bullseye for early offense. The match was hard hitting, but once we got to the Suicide Dive spot, the match seemed to really drag. A bad Elbow Drop from Jay got turned into a crucifix pin, and that’s never good when you telegraph the counter by half assing the move. A few counters on moves were supposed to be exciting but really just felt like it was extending a match that no one really cared about. Lethal ducks under a lariat and hits the Lethal Injection for the pinfall.
Overall Score: 4.5/10
So the crowd was dead through most of the show, when they finally panned out we saw that there were many empty seats at the show…and that was obvious. Aside from the Villain Enterprises match, the crowd was really kind of dead. The first few matches should get people charged up, but Cheeseburger does nothing for me and Bruiser’s match wasn’t awful, just not a lot of time and the story being told was a little odd. Even Cobb’s match, though decent, didn’t really wake the crowd up much.
This whole show was a boring grind, where nothing really happened and it was just hard to sit through. After this event I’m looking forward to WWE Raw tomorrow since on average it’ll be at least as good, if not better than this. So thank you ROH, you made me excited for WWE.
Will Samoa Joe Finally Headline WWE WrestleMania?
David Levin takes a look at the Samoa Joe roadmap to WWE success, asking if he can finally get his WWE WrestleMania spotlight.
It wasn’t a typical Samoa Joe night Tuesday night. But it was a night many of us expect from the WWE superstar on the way to WrestleMania 35. The former NXT Champion brutalized Mustafa Ali in a match that best described how the man on a mission wants to finally reach the pinnacle of his career and win the Royal Rumble.
This is how Joe, who has been a contender for the Universal Title and the WWE Title in the past year should be thought of – as the biggest threat to 29 other WWE performers with one goal in mind – to win the Royal Rumble match and head to the biggest stage with a chip on his shoulder and a possible dream realized.
Phoenix could be the start of something big for one of the company’s best performers in and out of the ring.
Joe’s resume looks like a roadmap of how to become a successful professional wrestler.
Joe established himself in Ring Of Honor from the promotion’s beginning in 2002, holding the ROH World Championship for a record 21 months from March 2003 to December 2004. Upon joining TNA in June 2005, he embarked on a 19-month-long undefeated streak, and went on to hold the TNA World Heavyweight Championship once, the TNA X Division Championship five times, the TNA World Tag Team Championship twice, and the TNA Television Championship once; completing the TNA Triple Crown and the TNA Grand Slam.
Add to that a stint in WWE NXT where he was the brand’s first ever two-time champion and later, an enforcer on WWE’s main roster. His size, speed, agility and ability to deliver a kick-ass promo makes him one of the best the promotion has to offer. The only thing eluding him is a belt and a moniker as the best of the best at what he does. Underutilized? For sure. Underrated? It’s not even a discussion.
After feuds with Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, A.J. Styles and Brock Lesnar what is holding him back? Injuries for one. Maybe a lack of direction and third, the changes WWE has implemented in the past month has set a course for new talent and bigger matches. Joe should be leading this charge.
Joe does not want to get into a situation where he is known as the “greatest to never win the WWE Title”. It’s a road Hall of Fame stars have traveled. Rick Rude, Roddy Piper, and Rick Steamboat. There are others on the company roster who can make a case for the same moniker. Joe is first in line.
There are eight days until the Royal Rumble as I write this blog. It’s already electric. Expect Joe to be one of the last four standing next Sunday night. I expect him to walk out of Phoenix with a ticket to WrestleMania 35. I know fellow blogger Sarah Hirsch will be fangirling when this happens because a Joe-Finn Balor main event is quite possible.
It’s part of the continued evolution of Samoa Joe. And the next step takes place in Phoenix at the Royal Rumble.
Could Finn Balor Actually Beat Brock Lesnar at the WWE Royal Rumble?
Finn Balor is on his way to the main event of The Royal Rumble on January 27. The Irish born Superstar has the chance of a lifetime against Brock Lesnar and that chance may deliver the Universal Championship. Finn has worked hard for this moment as he’s finally getting another run at the top.
That is the narrative that’s currently being written by WWE. Finn Balor’s career resurgence is a feel-good story and understandably so. It’s been nearly three years since he’s truly been in serious world title contention. He is one of the most popular Superstars on the roster and fans want to see him do well. All of this is true. But is he really going to win it all on January 27?
Balor’s rise to the top back in 2016 seemed like a perfect move. He was riding a wave of momentum from his run in NXT and he was gaining popularity with each passing week. The fans saw him as a top babyface and that’s how WWE booked him.
His debut on the main roster was met with overwhelming approval, as fans couldn’t wait to see him mix it up with Raw’s biggest names. One of those names was of course Roman Reigns, who Bálor defeated en route to beating Seth Rollins and becoming the first-ever Universal champion.
Both wins were a statement by WWE. It wasn’t often that the company moved anyone ahead of Reigns, but that’s exactly what happened with Finn. Roman wasn’t going anywhere of course and Bálor was probably not taking his place.
But WWE was giving the fans something new, something different. Balor was a breath of fresh air on a program that often grows very stale at times. However with Finn at the helm, there was little chance of that happening again.
So now that he’s finally regained momentum after three years, what are the chances that Finn Balor will once again be slowed to a dead stop? His injury the night he won the Universal title was through no fault of his own. These things happen and it could very well happen to any WWE Superstar at any time.
But there is definitely someone to blame for Finn’s booking since relinquishing the championship. WWE surely could not be expected to immediately reinsert Finn into a top spot the moment he came back from injury. But to wait this long to elevate him to the world title picture?
WWE had to change plans after Finn went down. Fans surely realize that. The company really cannot afford to sit still for anyone, especially someone that had just arrived on the main roster. But Balor’s lack of main event success in the time following his return is indeed a curiosity.
Brock Lesnar was the top titleholder for the majority of the time after Finn returned to Raw. WWE’s plans didn’t include Balor versus Lesnar. So why not move Finn to SmackDown Live and give him a run against then-WWE champion AJ Styles?
A feud between the two could have led to a WrestleMania 35 showdown for the WWE Championship. The founder of The Bullet Club versus the man who took his place. Two veteran stars that made their names outside of WWE now waging war on the WrestleMania stage. It’s a story that really could have written itself.
But even as fans contemplate what could have been, there’s no denying that Finn is once again in a great place in his WWE career. Maybe it did take too long for him to return to this elite level. But he’s back nonetheless and now he indeed has a chance of achieving greatness. All he has to do is get past Brock Lesnar.
Facing Lesnar right now is a somewhat odd prospect for Finn Balor. On one hand, Finn has to look good and he most likely will. The contrast between the two men is apparent and that contrast should make for an intriguing matchup.
Balor will stick and move, he will weather the storm and he will continue to come out swinging despite how long the match lasts. But what happens when crowd fatigue sets in, as is often the case, during Lesnar’s matches?
The fact is that may bode well for Finn, because once he starts his comeback, the crowd will go along for the ride. The real drama in Brock Lesnar’s matches typically does not come until the end. That’s when the real test begins, as fans hold their collective breath to see if Brock’s opponent will actually pull out the win. The problem is, that win rarely ever happens.
But this is actually in Finn’s favor as well. Even if Finn loses to Brock, it probably won’t affect Balor that much at all. No one expects Lesnar to really ever lose and when it does happen, it’s a complete shock to the system. So, Balor would be just another star that tried and failed. How could anyone hold that against him?
However will the notion that Finn is destined to be nothing more than a top mid-card star once again become the prevailing opinion? Fans have always debated Balor’s worth and WWE’s apparent refusal to use him as a main event star. Will a loss at The Royal Rumble once again put Balor right back in the middle of that situation?
The truth is that for fans desperately wanting to see the Universal Championship back on Raw full-time again, nothing would be sweeter than a Lesnar loss. Roman is still out action and it’s clear that Braun Strowman is not the answer to Brock. So now may be the perfect opportunity to take a different path and reinsert Finn Bálor as the new top titleholder on Monday Night Raw. WWE did it before. Whether or not it will happen again is anyone’s guess.