Welcome to Seven Things, a list that will run weekly and consist of very eclectic topics. These are of my opinions and doesn’t express the views of others on WrestlingOnEarth.
Let’s take a look at some things I took away from the ROH/NJPW joint shows in Canada and New York.
Reminder: If you have any suggestions for future lists, feel free to share them in the comments or send them to me on Twitter: @JoeySplashwater.
7. Tag team wrestling is alive and well.
The two shows gave you so many great tag teams led by The Young Bucks having arguably the best match on each show. reDRagon cemented themselves as one of and in my opinion, the best tag team in wrestling right now. Another one of my favorites The Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA) made their ROH debut and looked fantastic. The Briscoes, Bullet Club and Forever Hooligans also made their presences felt and are in the top tier of tag teams right now.
The Marvel spoof post show credits scene after War of the Worlds saw Christopher Daniels announce his return to Ring of Honor with Kazarian so another top tier tag team is freed from the shackles of TNA and should make for some interesting matches. For those who love tag team wrestling, the genre of wrestling is alive as can be right now. If The Young Bucks and Bad Influence can be on shows consistently enough and the team of Hanson & Rowe mature, this could be the best tag team roster ROH has had since 2008.
6. RD Evans is a valuable member of the ROH roster.
As fantastic as War of the Worlds was, one thing was missing and that was RD Evans and #TheNewStreak. Evans has become one of the bright spots on a ROH card and has played a big role in adding the very much necessary variety to the shows. I feel as if in 2013, the indies and ROH became too one dimensional with the same kind of wrestlers having the same kind of matches similar to what fans would complain WWE would be like in the mid 2000’s except more of the same spots and similar matches all feeling the same.
RD Evans is a breath of fresh air and his Streak along side money grubbing attorney/valet Veda Scott and the enthusiastic sign holder Ramon is just perfect. If we never get to see undefeated RD Evans vs. champion Adam Cole, it will be a shame. Imagine them doing a staredown with Cole raising his hand gesture before shouting “ADAM COLE BAYBAY” and RD striking back with his hand gesture of fans chanting “STREAK STREAK STREAK.”
5. Tanahashi is even more awesome than I realized.
While Okada and Liger may have had the main event matches, Hiroshi Tanahashi left the biggest impact on me. I enjoyed his match with Michael Bennett as a whole but what I was in awe of is how easy and effortless he made everything look. It’s something I never really notice or pay attention to when watching but it stuck out seeing him live. Every move he executed just looked as natural to him as breathing air is to us.
In general, the way he carries himself as well just makes him look like a special talent to anyone who doesn’t watch enough wrestling to be aware of him. I instantly saw why NJPW put the franchise on his back for such a long time as he’s “that dude.” I would love to see him wrestle more North American talent from independent wrestlers to WWE main eventers.
4. Thank you, Steen.
Rumor has it Kevin Steen is ending his time in ROH and the indies as he progresses to the bigger stage in his career. If looking at the reports and ROH talent lists on future shows, it would seem as if Best In The World could be his final Ring of Honor show making Global Wars his final title shot and War of the Worlds his final New York city appearance. Steen did himself proud having two outstanding matches on his last tour.
Adam Cole vs. Steen was the best match Cole has had since becoming ROH champion despite a flat ending to many as the match had a very similar feel to Nigel McGuinness vs. Steen in Canada a few years prior. Fans despising Cole and desperately wanting Steen to regain the title led to a great atmosphere and an even better match.
Fast forward a week later, Steen vs. Nakamura had one of the wildest crowd responses to match I’ve witnessed live and it was the perfect final live Kevin Steen ROH match to see if it was indeed that. You cheered, you laughed, you gasped and you smiled in a matter of 15 minutes. That sums up the Kevin Steen experience.
On a personal note, it was cool to see him do his dive off the top rope onto security at War of the Worlds as that was also a memorable moment from my first live ROH show 7 years ago to the week at Respect Is Earned.
3. America needs more KUSHIDA!
One of my favorite guys in New Japan in the last year or so has been KUSHIDA. His teaming with Alex Shelley making the Time Splitters just blew me away. Shelley was fresh off of leaving TNA and as the kids would say I “felt some type of way” that Shelley was forming another tag team so shortly after the end of the Motor City Machine Guns. Then, I watched a Time Splitters match and I was instantly healed. Shelley and KUSHIDA became one of my favorite tag teams, very comparable to MCMG, and a must see act.
Somehow over time, I actually became a bigger fan of KUSHIDA than Alex Shelley so getting to see him live was a treat. No one was talking about KUSHIDA vs. Jay Lethal when breaking down the card but they went out there and set the ring on fire. (Not literally. Go away, Balls Mahoney.)
I would say KUSHIDA/Lethal is my favorite ROH TV Title match since El Generico vs. Christophere Daniels. I’m under the belief KUSHIDA currently lives in Canada therefore I really want to see him do more U.S. shows when he’s not in Japan as he’s such a great fit and can add even more depth to a roster like ROH or PWG.
2. Welcome home, AJ Styles.
When AJ Styles left TNA, many people were skeptical. Whether the mindset that this was a part of an angle and AJ would be going back to TNA shortly, the bitterness associated with his booking fee and the criticism that he wasn’t a “big enough name,” all criticisms have been silenced. The thought that he wasn’t a big deal because of how mundane TNA has been was a fair one but Styles sure proved that wrong. His first ROH date was in Nashville for TV tapings and the substantial amount of tickets available were sold out within the week of promoting him.
I, myself thought that AJ may not be able to acclimate himself into the ROH type world of wrestling after wrestling in TNA for so long but I was proven wrong as he’s brought it in the ring namely his most recent TV match vs. Michael Elgin, a match which I’d consider Elgin’s best.
Looking at timing, it would be difficult to not consider Styles as among the top reasons for ROH’s momentum building. It started at that red hot Nashville TV taping and has been growing ever since then and while he isn’t at every show, I can’t imagine ROH’s chances of being considered for live PPV and replacing TNA for the MCU Park Summer show would have been as strong if AJ wasn’t a part of the roster.
On the NJPW side, AJ became the first American born IWGP champion since Brock Lesnar winning it his first match in NJPW as a member of The Bullet Club. AJ Styles has a found a new home in ROH and NJPW and looks to be a part of the products for quite some time.
1. ROH’s momentum is at a high. Can they take advantage of it?
As mentioned earlier, Ring of Honor has been on an upswing of momentum so far in 2014. Their shows have been consistently doing their best attendances while doubling and tripling TNA numbers. A source told me that as of this writing, TNA’s THREE New York TV taping shows in the lesser Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center has sold less tickets combined as what ROH/NJPW’s War of the Worlds did on that one night, in which tickets sold out months ago. The A markets are still hot, the B markets are becoming A markets and C markets are growing enough to a point where you can keep testing new places.
That brings us to Best In The World, ROH’s first live PPV on television. Momentum is only as good as your next show and this is the biggest show where ROH has to hit a home run. AJ Styles and The Young Bucks most likely missing it due to being in Japan that weekend is a huge loss as they are such attractions but Bad Influence debuting should be huge. Most noteworthy is we’ll get a good glimpse at how the ROH brand is looking once ticket sales and show buzz are witnessed during that weekend.
Potentially the most important show in the promotion’s history in terms of having the ability to grow their audience wider and impress those “on the fringe” fans checking it out for the first time, it’s going to be interesting to watch this play out. There are some things that excite me, some things that terrify me and some things in between but regardless, we are going to see what the future holds for ROH.