ROH’s 14th Anniversary: Winner Takes All took place this past Friday at the Sam’s Town Live Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. For this occasion, several of NJPW’s top stars were also invited, so, let’s see what they had for us:
ROH TV Title Match: Tomohiro Ishii (c) defeated Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish in 8:40 via pinfall:
Good, very solid opener, but I’m not sure this was the best choice of match for Ishii as he’s seldom push in three-way situations over at NJPW. Besides Ishii is awesome when he can just concentrate on kicking one guy’s ass. There was also a very awkward spot were either Fish Failed to kick out off an Ishii pinfall attempt on time or Strong was late making the save, but all this forced the referee to hold up the three-count in a rather obvious way, which of course hurt the flow of the match quite a bit. Ishii didn’t look happy about this and administered some wake-up calls in the form of very stiff clotheslines. Then again, Ishii NEVER looks happy and ALWAYS has a very stiff offense, so this might actually have been coincidental. Other than that all combinations within the usual three way formula (Ishii vs Strong, Ishii vs Fish, Strong vs Fish) delivered some entertainment. Ishii pinned Strong (again) to retain the ROH TV title, which prompted Fish to challenge him. It seems they’ll let Ishii keep the title for longer than first expected which might give us some interesting matches down the road.
Grudge Match: BJ Whitmer defeated Adam Page in 9:20 via pinfall:
I don’t know about this one to be honest. Technically it was fine, yes, but it seemed to lack any kind of heat or even crowd interest. Whitmer going over also seems like a strange choice since it’s been awhile since he did anything that got over to any degree. After getting pinned (following a low blow of course) Page showed some fire and tried to gain some revenge post-match, leading to Whitmer bolting out of there and Page venting his frustration by taking out some security guards, but the lack of crowd reaction for that angle, doesn’t bode well for the future of this particular feud. Waste of Page’s talent if you ask me.
Hirooki Goto defeated Dalton Castle in 9:49 via pinfall:
Fun match with the crowd loving everything Castle did. Goto was also on point here and while he’s currently in a (storyline) slump, he certainly remains one of NJPW’s most dependable performers. Good chemistry between the two, but the star here was clearly Castle. I was therefore a bit surprised that Dalton lost here, as Goto didn’t really need a win, not now at least, while Castle could have benefited from it. Anyway, fun is fun, so…
Alex Shelley defeated Christopher Daniels in 9:41 via pinfall:
The perfect example of how constant interference can completely screw up the flow of a match. Whenever Shelley and Daniels were left to their own devices they had very good exchanges and the match gained momentum. Whenever Kazarian interfered (which was a lot) that momentum was completely negated. Now wonder they kinda lost the crowd at some point. That being said, in hindsight, this match was perhaps more intended as an angle than anything else wince, Chris Sabin ended up coming to Shelley’s aid, signaling the re-formation of the Motor City Machine Guns, which did earn the crowd’s approval. We’ll have to see where they go with this, but I, for one, am glad the MCMG’s are back.
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin defeated Mark and Jay Briscoe in 14:50 via pinfall:
Tanahashi could have been forgiven if he’d taken the night off here, given his shoulder injury and the upcoming New Japan tournament, but, he clearly had his working shoes on and, together with the other three, worked his ass off to deliver a good, very entertaining tag match. I don’t know what it is with Elgin in ROH, perhaps, the ROH fans feel he’s done everything he could do in the promotion, but the contrast with his popularity over ion NJPW is stunning. This probably explains why he chose to sign a two year with the Japanese promotion, his future his clearly over there. The Briscoes delivered a typical Briscoe performance, which is to say it was lots of fun. Much more on Elgin and Tanahashi in my upcoming New Japan Cup preview. Elgin Bomb and High Fly Flow to finish off the best match up until now.
Non-Title Match: IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada defeated Moose in 10:30 via pinfall:
Good match where a hard-working Moose was rewarded with quite a bit of offense against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Since the dropkick is on of the main elements in both wrestlers’ arsenal, this was also a theme throughout the match. Towards the end, it also became a battle of the finishers. Moose first avoided Okada’s Rainmaker but then became a bit over-confident as he spend some time mocking Okada’s trade-mark pose. Okada would then avoid the Spear, score a couple of dropkicks and end things with the Rainmaker. For me, the only issue there was with this match is the time they were afforded. After both NJPW and ROH spend a lot of time getting Moose over during the Honor Rising PPV’s, the fact that this only lasted ten minutes made this match feel like something of an afterthought. More could have been done here…
NEVER Openweight Six Man Title Match: The ELITE (c) defeated ACH, Matt Sydal & KUSHIDA in 17:00 via pinfall:
Easily the best match of the night, it was amazing to see how over The Elite was. I know some don’t like The Bucks and Omega, mostly because of their over-the-top comedy and shenanigans, but, since forming The Elite, they really seem to have found the right mix between comedy (not too much) and in-ring work (which is what they’re pushing forward now. Of course, the fact they were matched against top-class cruiser-weights like Sydal, KUSHIDA and ACH didn’t hurt either. KUSHIDA and Omega would revive their feud here, bringing fireworks each and every time. While ACH w did very well, the real individual star of the match was Sydal for me who provided the glue for this match by selling like mad each time he was being dominated by The Elite. Great performance from him and, indeed, all involved. Finish came after Sydal was completely destroyed by the Indie Taker and the One Winged Angel. Some comedy, some humor, but, above all, amazingly competitive and athletic, with some awesome moves on top of all of that, this is the kind of match I don’t mind watching again and again. More of that from The Elite, please!
No DQ ROH Tag Team Title Match: War Machine (c) defeated The All Night Xpress in 11:20 via pinfall:
And this is were the small mistakes made throughout the show became a big mistake. How in the hell were War Machine and The All Night Express supposed to follow that. The answer is simple, they couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I like both teams, but their match would perhaps have been better received if it had been placed elsewhere on the card. That being said, they did work hard, delivering some impressive spots here and there, but both teams just didn’t seem to click very well and the crowd was still buzzing from the previous match, showing little interest in this one. The booking is at least partly to blame here, since the build-up to this match wasn’t really the stuff of legends. To bad for both teams, who certainly didn’t deserve that, but there it is.
ROH World Title Match: Jay Lethal (c) defeated Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly in 13:45 via pinfall:
Lethal, Cole and O’Reilly delivered a good main-event but I hear they had to rush things somewhat due to time constraints. If so, I have to wonder what else on the show was so vital they had to cut the main event short. Regardless, this match was entertaining from start to finish with a great flow and good back-and-forth action. It did follow the tiresome-getting three-way formula though (one guy gets “knocked out”, the other two fight for a time until they switch roles), but OK, I’m nitpicking. Cole was the one taking the loss, so I assume he and O’Reilly will first resolve their difference before the winner of that particular match (O’Reilly probably) faces Lethal. Entertaining match to close down a show with quite a few up-and-downs.
Conclusion: I feel like this show is a good example of ROH’s current booking problems. There wasn’t really anything bad (although Whitmer and Page may have come close) but, damn did the wrestlers have to work hard to get the crowd into things. Now you can blame the crowd, of course, but, the fact they didn’t really seemed to care about most ongoing feuds is also the booking team’s responsibility. Not wanting to put all the blame on Delirious here, but one has to wonder if his over-reliance on Three-Way-Dances (who always follow the same, tired formula) and somewhat confused style of booking things isn’t starting to hurt to promotion.
Furthermore, this PPV had a 35 dollar price-tag. Now, that in itself is fine, but, in today’s age of Networks, one has to wonder how many fans are still eager to pay for what was, in essence, a decent show. Nothing more. Take the comparison, in March, for 999 Yen (8.7 USD) you will be able to watch the whole New Japan Cup Tournament and all the matches around it from start to finish. In April, if you put 9.99 USD in Vince’s pocket, you will have access to WrestleMania, NXT TakeOver Dallas and all WWE will do around these two shows. This Friday, for 35 USD dollars you got a decent PPV. Nothing less, nothing more. I think it’s about time for ROH to sit down for a minute and think about where it is they want to go and how they wanna get there.
Tags: 14th Anniversary, ach, Adam Cole, adam page, All Night Xpress, Allex Shelley, b.j. whitmer, Bobby Fish, Christopher Daniels, Dalton Castle, Hirooki Goto, hiroshi tanahashi, Jay Lethal, kazuchika okada, Kushida, Kyle O'Reilly, Matt Sydal, Michael Elgin, Moose, Roderick Strong, ROH, The Briscoes, The Elite, Tomohiro Ishii, War Machine