March 1, 2015

ACH . . . tries his best to give the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion all he can handle.

The Young Bucks . . . once again show that booking them against O’Reilly and Fish is a winning formula.

Jay Lethal . . . attempts to prove himself against a former multi time WWE Champion.


They had some good moments to go with a good finish, but, this doesn’t wind up picking up enough to be more than fun. It’s nice to watch them pull off the various counters to one another, and show that they’re both trying to get ahead by working smart. Sydal’s bump and selling from the Lumbar Check is the best that I’ve seen from anyone, and it’s only rivaled by Cedric’s reaction when Sydal kicks out. The finish winds up being as much due to Sydal as it is Cedric. Yes, Sydal hits the SSP to get the pin, but, Cedric’s wiping out on the corner dropkick is what let Sydal hit it. Cedric’s disappointment with the loss, and, his begrudging handshake afterwards foreshadow his eventual heel turn.


It’s remarkable that Moose could work a match like this against someone as established as Mark. But, it’s still just your typical Moose match, designed to highlight the few things he can do well, rather than the many things that he can’t. Moose shows off his agility with a dropkick while Mark on the on the top, and bumps him six ways from Sunday in the usual ways. Mark manages to get in a blockbuster from the apron and follows that with a Cactus Jack elbow, so, it’s not a complete squash, but, it might as well have been, since they go to the finish almost right after the elbow.


The absence of Gallows doesn’t seem to have too much bearing on how this plays out. It’s worked like any other three-way match, only with one less person to keep occupied. One could argue that Gallows being out allows for the finish, with him not there to save Anderson after the spike piledriver, but, the mentality of these matches is that the finish happens at the right time, with nobody poised to make the save, so, if Doc were there, he’d likely have been taken out too. The work isn’t anything bad, but there’s not much that’s remarkable either, other than Bennett and Taven aping the Hardys with a Twist of Fate and Swanton. Anderson dropping the fall sets up Taven and Bennett’s challenging for the IWGP Titles the next month, so, if nothing else, this has slightly more meaning that the usual ROH multi man affair.


For the first minute or so, they looked like they wanted to kill each other, and, that sort of intensity is always welcome. But, once that died down, so did the match. This was billed as a grudge match, so, it makes sense for them to trade a lot of punches, but, they also could have tried to be at least a little bit interesting. When the best bump of the match is from Adam Page, you know you’re in trouble. The finish pretty much comes out of nowhere, with Strong connecting a few strikes, and then getting the pin with the Strong breaker. Given the finish to Strong/Page in December, it would have been interesting to see Whitmer tap out to the Stronghold. But, comparing this to the December match (which wasn’t exactly a classic) only makes it look that much more meandering and thoughtless.


If nothing else, Maria shows she’s tougher than she looks, managing to survive both the superkick and spear miscues from Bennett before O.D.B. puts her away with the TKO. But, that’s pretty much the only thing to take away from this, considering it’s not that long, and is full of interference from Bennett and Mark Briscoe to cover for the fact that Maria (and maybe O.D.B. for that matter) can’t work.


This is a good match, if you’re able to reconcile the fact that ACH had zero chance of winning (Styles had just won the IWGP Title). As impressive as ACH can be, it never takes Styles much effort to turn things around, simple things like pushing on the ropes to stop the Air Jordan, or, ACH telegraphing the running kick from the apron so that Styles can block, and splat him on the floor. To his credit, ACH does learn from his mistakes. After AJ thwarts the Air Jordan, he gets another chance and switches to a tope, so that the ropes won’t be a factor. He’s also able to catch Styles off guard a few times, so, it’s not like ACH is getting squashed here, but, there isn’t any point that Styles is in genuine danger of losing. The finish gets a bit too cute, there wasn’t any need for the rolling sequence before the Styles Clash. ACH missing the 450 lets Styles get on the Calf Killer, and that should have been able to wear him down enough that AJ could go right into the Styles Clash. The roll through bit just seems like a nod to the earlier sequence in the match, as well as the fact that it’s what AJ always does. ***


This isn’t bad or anything, but, overall, it’s more fun than it is good. Both teams have plenty of good offense, and there are some really smart touches (Matt catching Kyle’s rebound in the ropes, to set up the Tombstone on the floor being the best), but, this doesn’t come together well enough to be as good as their previous matches. The first half of this is worked by the formula, with the champs working over Nick, to set up a hot tag. The problem is that Kyle and Bobby really aren’t that heelish, aside from a couple of cutoffs and cheap shots. They seemed to think that being on the Young Bucks home turf would be enough to keep the fans behind them. And, Nick wasn’t really in peril all that much. Granted, the way the ‘Bucks like to work is less focused on selling, and more, on spots, so it’s probably asking too much of Nick to go all out. But, with Kyle and Bobby not holding up their end of things, he really needed to pick up the pieces, and, he wasn’t able to do so.

After Matt gets the hot tag, the match breaks down as you would expect. But, instead of going to the finish, it just stays that way, with extended periods of two-on-one situations and double-teams, while the ref just stands there and watches. After the lackluster performance in the grudge match, it’s nice to see that both teams are willing to go all out to put on a show, but, any sense of order or structure is out the window. Both teams have moments that show that they’re trying to be smart, like when the ‘Bucks hit the Tombstone on Kyle, but, they remember that Bobby is legal, so they roll him in to try to finish him off. And, there is a nice throwback to their prior matches, with Nick jumping himself into Kyle’s armbar. Some will take issue with Shayna Baszler pulling out the ref after MBFYB, but, it got the most crowd heat of anything on the entire card, and, Matt got to avenge it a minute later when he did the same thing after Chasing the Dragon. The finish itself is fine, after Matt pulls out the ref, they take him out with the Double Dragon, and then they finish off Nick with another Chasing the Dragon. It’d have been nice to see Nick get one last quick run to give the fans some hope, before they finished him off. ***


Is it too much to ask that Lethal have a successful defense on PPV without the match being laden with interference and cheating? It’s nice that Alberto is willing to take a few big bumps for Lethal, especially the bump over the guardrail from the tope. They have a few good ideas, like Lethal diving into the armbar, and, using his arm being hurt as the reason that he can’t hit the Lethal Injection. But, virtually off the good stuff is in the last five minutes. The early portion has a lot of basic, and meaningless, work, as well as interference from Lethal’s goons in order to eat up time. Lethal not pulling off his finisher due to the arm is better than what he’d been doing but, it’s negated when Lethal needs all of thirty seconds of recovery time, after Martini clocks Alberto with the book, to hit the move. Had they spent less time killing time, and more time laying the groundwork to tell a story with Lethal’s arm, then this wouldn’t seem so frustrating.


If this was a random spot show in Las Vegas, then the “High Stakes” gimmick of a four-way title match wouldn’t be that big a deal, but, it doesn’t fly as a main event for one of the biggest shows of the year. There’s some creativity in the form of Elgin giving Ciampa the crucifix facebuster onto a prone Hanson, so that he hurts two instead of one, and a nice moment when Ciampa uses Hanson’s momentum to assist in a German suplex. But, this is structured just like any other match of its kind, where it’s go-go-go, and, aside from the ‘wow’ factor of their spots, very little of it matters.

The only big spot that gets put over for a decent amount of time was the Jay driller through the table that Elgin gave Briscoe, but, even that gets disrespected, because it happens a while before the finish, and Jay was back in the ring and breaking up pins during the final stretch, even after taking Project Ciampa. If anything, Elgin’s powerbomb and Hanson’s spin kick are the moves that get put over strong. The powerbomb is what keeps Ciampa down, and the spin kick knocks out Jay, who just happens to fall onto Ciampa to steal the pin, just in case anyone had the crazy notion that the champion would be booked to come out of the PPV looking strong. They’d have been better off to jettison all the extraneous nonsense with the ref bump, run-ins from the masked guys (and Ray Rowe to run them off), and the Elgin/Nigel chair bit, and just have Jay roll back into the ring, while still looking dazed, and pin Ciampa while Elgin and Hanson are fighting. The Jay driller spot gets put over strongly and Jay still retains with a lucky pin on Ciampa. All things considered, ROH probably should have put on this on as the semi main event, and let Alberto vs. Lethal headline.

Conclusion: It’s an improvement over the December show, but, it’s still below par for PPV and for ROH in general.