by Luke Raven (@ravenluke)
As many of you know I have recently endeavored into unknown territory. I am no longer watching Monday Night Raw. The decision was made after weeks of awful episodes that caused increasing nausea every Monday. I decided to rededicate myself to other promotions of wrestling. As 7PM crept closer and closer I felt myself instinctually turning my television to the USA channel. I had to catch myself. Watching WWE every Monday since I was a young child caused a ritual in my life. With the remote in my hand I looked down and realized that I was no longer beholden to Raw. I could watch what I want. So I turned on Ring of Honor.
Although I have been a consistent viewer of Ring of Honor I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard for many years. They always have some of the best talent. The show is only an hour and usually contains one above average match. This episode was no different. Three matches, recaps from prior weeks, and hype for the next pay-per-view. Sounds familiar, huh?
The first match is somewhat of a continuation of a New Japan Pro Wrestling storyline with Michael Elgin and one half of the current IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Toru Yano. During the G-1 Climax Tournament, Yano upset Elgin causing him to miss out on the finals. This is perfectly in line with everything that Toru Yano does. He is the spoiler. He’s a chubby, odd-looking wrestler who appears like he shouldn’t even be in the ring with most NJPW talent, but that’s exactly why he’s there. To be the underhanded underdog. I wouldn’t call him a villain, but he definitely has no problem with breaking rules to get a win or two. Really that is what has endeared him to the NJPW audience. He knows he’s not good enough so he uses comedy, shady tactics, and a shrug that says, “Whoops! What else could I do?” Elgin, of course, is a bruiser. He’s built like a tank and has a pretty similar style to one too. The match starts off slow with Yano doing everything he can to avoid contact with Elgin. Once they do finally get the action going it isn’t long before Yano finds a pair of wire cutters and cuts the turnbuckle off. No one is immediately driven into the turnbuckle. This does cause a distraction for Toru to get the upper hand. After some back and forth Elgin finds the wire cutters and cuts off a different turnbuckle! This is an odd Michael Elgin match for sure. After a while Elgin overpowers Yano, buckle bombs him into an exposed turnbuckle, the ref does not disqualify him, finishes it with an Elgin Bomb and picks up the win.
ROH has recently developed a strong working relationship with Mexico’s CMLL much like they have with NJPW. The partnership helps all parties involved. It really gives a different feel to some of the matches and breaks up the monotony wrestling can have sometimes. Out comes CMLL’s Dragon Lee. Already a well-known name who will only continue to get better. He’s facing ROH’s injured Television Champion, Bobby Fish, who was injured along with his tag partner and number one contender to the Heavyweight Champions, Kyle O’Reilly, at the hands of the Bullet Club. Fish has his ribs and back taped up pretty tight. Announcers Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino (both underrated in my opinion) are really driving home the point that the assault has really had a lasting effect on reDRagon. A very good, quick match between Fish and Lee with the champion trying to power his way through possibly broken ribs. Late in the match Fish attempts to get Lee up for the brainbuster, but collapses under the pain of his injuries. Lee reverses and picks up a clean win and a future TV Title shot. Again, this was a good match that told a story and set up for future angles. I can’t recall the last time Raw had anything like that.
The tournament to crown the first ever ROH Six Man Tag Team Titles features an incredibly interesting first round match. Three members of the Bullet Club against Matt Taven and his version of The Kingdom. There was a lot of anticipation built around this match. What three members of the Bullet Club would we see? What will Matt Taven look like after his devastating knee injury? Who the hell is in the new version of The Kingdom? We quickly get a lot of fun and interesting answers. The Bullet Club’s music hits and out come World Champion Adam Cole with the Tag Team champs, The Young Bucks. There is a lot of gold on the side of the Bullet Club so whatever we see from The Kingdom is going to need to be good. We first here some oddly melodic and soft music. Matt Taven is in the middle of the entrance with a walking cane. His hair looks like a cross between Kenny Omega and Broken Matt Hardy. From either side of the ring come two young guys who look familiar. I believe they were in the 2016 Top Prospect Tournament. I really couldn’t tell you the names of either guy. The two guys I remember from this year’s TPT are Lio Rush (obviously) and Jason Kincaid (who’s amazing). The new version of The Kingdom walk towards the ring with……servants, I guess, bowing on their knees and waving them. It felt a little off. Not sure why. The match was your typical Bullet Club awesomeness. Lots of superkicks, dives, and fake outs. The two younger wrestlers by Taven’s side seemed a little apprehensive at times. It disrupted the flow of the match a little. There were about three or four near falls broken up by outside interference when finally Matt Taven picked up the victory. Shocking to say the least given that all three members of the Bullet Club are champions within ROH. The Kingdom will face the winner of Team CMLL versus The Addiction and Kamaitachi.
Week one is down. No Raw and it wasn’t that hard when you watch a consistently good product like Ring of Honor. The other promotion I will be spending a lot of my free time watching and reviewing is Scotland’s Insane Championship Wrestling. Hopefully I will have an article up for ICW this week. Keep an eye. Let me know if there’s anything I should be watching instead of Raw. See you soon!