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Ring of Honor 14th Anniversary PPV Report
February 26, 2016
Las Vegas, Nev.
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
Ring of Honor’s anniversary PPV started with a video package on the ROH World Title match. Truth Martini, the manager of ROH World champion Jay Lethal, talked about the difference between winning and losing. Soundbytes from challengers Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly were mixed in.
The PPV opened with a look at Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas, then a look inside the venue. The music and presentation felt a bit cheesy, like a studio audience for a PBA bowling event on ESPN2. Announcers Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino (as a masked “Elvis” Mr. Wrestling III) introduced the show before running down the big card. Up first is the ROH TV Title match.
In-ring: Roderick Strong was introduced first for the opening title match. Bobby Fish was out next to a surprisingly strong reaction since the Final Battle crowd was lukewarm for him on the last ROH PPV. ROH then went to still-shots of Tomohiro Ishii winning the TV Title from Strong one week ago in Japan. After a pause, Ishii was introduced as the defending champion. Long pause. Where’s the champ? Everyone looked around waiting for Ishii as his music played, then he popped out on-stage to a big reaction. Ishii marched down to the ring and stared down Strong before Bobby Cruise handled formal ring introductions.
Suddenly, Strong attacked Ishii, looking to pick up where things left off last Friday in Japan. The ref called for the bell, but no bell sounded. He called for it again, but still no bell. Kelly said this match is official despite the lack of bell.
1 — ROH TV champion TOMOHIRO ISHII vs. RODERICK STRONG vs. BOBBY FISH — three-way ROH TV Title match
Ishii and Strong cleared Fish from the ring, then did battle mid-ring. Ishii no-sold Strong’s forearms, firing up the crowd. Ishii then walked into a kick to the head as Kelly relayed Ishii brushing aside Strong in an interview with the Japanese media after last week’s title win. Fish re-entered the match and battled Strong while Ishii sold in the corner.
Ishii, rested, cleared Strong from the match before catching Fish on the top turnbuckle. Ishii scored with a delayed super-brainbuster suplex, but only got a two count. Ishii followed with a big powerbomb and pinning combination, actually scoring a clear three count since Fish was late kicking out. The ref waved it off since it was a blown spot, so Ishii tried to own it by yelling at the referee.
Strong then re-entered the match by attacking Ishii before going after Fish. Ishii recovered and nailed a sliding lariat on Strong for a two count. Ishii followed with a vertical brainbuster suplex on Strong, and this was good for a pin and the win.
Post-match, Ishii celebrated pinning Strong for the second time in one week. He then confronted Fish, who suggested they should be on the same page. Kelly noted the business between Fish and Strong is still unfinished.
WINNER: Ishii unofficially around 8:20 to retain the ROH TV Title. This is either a long-term deal, or Ishii is dropping the title tomorrow night at the post-PPV TV taping. The match was cursed by the lack of an opening bell, but the crowd was into Ishii, so that made for a good environment. The quick change to the match (originally Strong-Fish before Strong’s title loss) seemed to hurt the dynamic here. Plus, Ishii does not wrestle three-way matches in Japan. (**1/2)
Video Package: B.J. Whitmer vs. Adam Page feud. The Decade Explodes tonight.
Of note, the upgraded TV production set and video boards look very nice, but the arena seating area looks soft with a game show-looking backdrop and feel.
2 — B.J. WHITMER vs. ADAM PAGE
A very soft opening bell sounded to officially begin the match. They started with a brawl to try to fire up the crowd for the grudge match. Whitmer took control on the floor, then dragged Page back into the ring. The crowd grew restless, producing “Please Retire” chant.
Whitmer continued to slow the pace, then he dragged Page to the ring apron. He teased a piledriver on the ring apron, waking up the crowd, but Page blocked. Page knocked Whitmer back into the ring, but Whitmer brought a bingo chair into the ring. Page blocked, then took the chair, causing the referee to reprimand him and take the chair away. Of course, Whitmer low-blowed Page from behind, then pinned him.
Post-match, Whitmer wanted another attack, but Page shoved him to the floor. Suddenly, security started flying into the ring as Page went into a rage. Page knocked them around, then hit Rite of Passage on a final security guard.
WINNER: Whitmer at 9:12. Another babyface made to look dumb on TV wrestling. Did Whitmer really need to win this match? (1/2*)
Promo: Dalton Castle cut a heelish promo on his new PPV opponent, Hirooki Goto, taunting him that he might not look intimidating, but he’s going to use his muscles on Goto. Goto was originally slated to face Ishii before Ishii won the TV Title.
3 — HIROOKI GOTO vs. DALTON CASTLE (w/the boys)
The kitchen timer “ring bell” sounded to begin the match with NJPW’s Tiger Hattori as special referee. Early on, Kevin Kelly talked about Goto falling short of the IWGP World Title on several occasions, so perhaps he should hire Truth Martini. Dalton played a heel by ducking competition and being fanned by his boys whenever he was in trouble. Goto then exploded on Castle with a knock-down clothesline. Dalton recovered on the floor, then Goto tossed him back into the ring.
As Goto worked over Castle, Kelly noted that upcoming ROH TV episodes will feature content from the “Honor Rising” shows in Japan. Castle eventually caught Goto in mid-air and dropped him with an overhead suplex. Castle then tossed Goto into the corner, but Goto avoided a clothesline and landed a spin kick into a Saito Suplex for a two count.
Castle again ducked to the floor to be fanned by his boys. Goto followed to the floor and landed forearm smashes. Goto tried to whip Castle back into the ring, but Castle turned around, reversed momentum, and landed a head scissors from the ring apron. Back in the ring, Castle smashed Goto with a missile dropkick for a two count.
Castle followed with impressive strength delivering a delayed German Suplex, showing impressive mid-section strength on the larger Goto. Castle tried to follow up, but Goto blocked him with forearms. Suddenly, a big mid-ring battle broke out. Castle got a head of steam, opening himself up to a big neckbreaker across Goto’s knee. Goto followed with his Shouten suplex for the pin and the win.
Post-match, Goto collected himself in the ring, then shook hands with Castle. Goto left the ring, shifting the focus to Castle being frustrated by his loss as he was fanned by the boys.
WINNER: Goto at 9:49. I was looking forward to Goto vs. Ishii in a hard-hitting, physical match before the TV Title change, so this required resetting expectations. After a slow start playing a cowardly heel, Castle held his own showing under-rated strength to match up with Goto. Strong finish. (***)
Video Package: Christopher Daniels vs. Alex Shelley feud involving Chris Sabin.
4 — CHRISTOPHER DANIELS (w/Kazarian) vs. ALEX SHELLEY
“Spanky” Brian Kendrick, wearing a Seattle Seahawks trucker hat, joined commentary for the match. Kazarian took exception to Spanky’s presence before the bell sounded. Shelley got in early offense before tossing Daniels to the floor. Kelly then asked Spanky if Shelley should have brought A.C.H. with him to neutralize Kazarian. Right on cue, Kaz got involved from behind tripping Shelley. Daniels tried to capitalize, but Shelley ducked and Daniels accidentally wiped out Kaz. Shelley then climbed to the top turnbuckle to deliver a big splash on both Addiction members.
Shelley tried to re-enter the ring, but Kaz tripped him up again. It was essentially a handicap match at this point, but ref Todd Sinclair did not kick out Kazarian from ringside. Daniels took advantage of Sinclair’s lax application of rules to wear down Shelley. Meanwhile, Kendrick talked about getting back in an ROH ring if the right things work out.
Shelley made a comeback, so Kaz got on the ring apron. Shelley managed to clear him, then splash Daniels for a two count. Daniels came back with a clothesline to the head, though. Daniels wanted the Best Moonsault Ever, but Shelley ducked. Kaz then got involved yet again. This time, Chris Sabin ran down to the ring. Daniels thought Sabin was on his side, but Sabin smashed Daniels, then Shelley pinned Daniels.
Post-match, Sabin broke up an attack from Kaz, clearing The Addiction from the ring. Shelley and Sabin then did the ol’ “bump into each other” routine as the crowd chanted “Motor City.” Sabin pointed to his hand, then Shelley embraced him, re-forming the Motor City Machineguns. Meanwhile, Daniels flipped off a fan on the front row in the background. Shelley and Sabin continued to celebrate as Shelley’s music played.
WINNER: Shelley at 9:41. The tag division just got much stronger if Motor City Machineguns becomes a bigger part of ROH going forward. The match itself was marred by Kaz’s constant interference without anything done by the referee. It would be like watching a basketball game where no fouls are called and everyone attacks each other in the paint, breaking up the flow of the game. It would not be pretty to watch. The idea of trying to get “heat on the heels” with the constant interference is more annoying or eye-rolling than effective after a period of lax booking from pro wrestling bookers over the years.
Video Package: The Briscoes against “Big Mike” Michael Elgin and … Tanahashi.
In-ring: Michael Elgin was introduced first to the ring. Tanahashi’s classic theme music then played to a loud reaction to bring out New Japan’s ace. Not quite the same effect in a smaller venue, but it’s Tanahashi. He could own a small grocery store with his magnetism and personality. Tanahashi did some of his air guitar routine before The Briscoes’s music played.
5 — THE BRISCOES (JAY & MARK BRISCOE) vs. MICHAEL ELGIN & TANAHASHI
Lots more energy for this match with the crowd flowing from Briscoes to Tanahashi to Big Mike chants as the bell sounded. Elgin went for his delayed vertical suplex on Jay, absorbing punishment from Mark, before Tanahashi joined the party for a stereo suplex. The crowd chanted for Tanahashi, who officially tagged in opposite Mark. Stalemate, so Tanahashi did an air-guitar pose. Mark responded with a kung fu pose, so Tanahashi arm-dragged him to the mat.
Tanahashi and Jay then battled. Meanwhile, Mark and Elgin battled on the floor, with Mark taking out Elgin via running Blockbuster off the ring apron. In the ring, Jay nailed a rolling elbow for a close two count. Mark then tagged in to double-team Tanahashi. The Briscoes tagged in and out working over Tanahashi.
Big Mike got the hot tag and cleaned house on the Briscoes with power offense. Suddenly, Mark found himself alone against Elgin and Tanahashi. Mike tried to fight back against the opposition, but found himself knocked down via roaring elbow. Jay saved Mark from taking High Fly Flow, then all four men battled in the ring. Mark suddenly dropped Elgin with an overhead press into a top-rope splash from Jay for a close two count.
Reset at 11:00 with Elgin now facing a two-on-one. Suddenly, Elgin back-dropped a charging Mark clear over the top rope into the barricade. Elgin followed with a roaring elbow on Jay to knock down the Briscoes. Elgin then tagged in Tanahashi, who elbowed Mark, then forearmed Jay. Dragonscrew leg whip to Jay. Tanahashi then ran into a suplex from Mark. Jay with a neckbreaker. Mark wanted Froggy Bow and he connected, but Tanahashi kicked out of a pin. Mark could not believe it.
So, the Briscoes went for a Doomsday Device on Tanahashi, but Elgin broke it up. Elgin then DVD’ed Jay into Mark in the corner. Elgin followed by putting Tanahashi onto his shoulders to deliver a big splash on Mark for another nearfall. Slingblade from Tanahashi. Elgin Bomb to Mark, then Tanahashi came off the top with High … Fly … Flow. Count it. Tanahashi covered Mark for the win.
Post-match, The Briscoes showed respect to Elgin and Tanahashi before leaving the ring. Abbreviated celebration for Tanahashi before leaving the ring with Elgin.
WINNERS: Tanahashi & Elgin at 14:50. Tanahashi was a team player giving The Briscoes a lot of offense before taking the win. Solid tag match with a lot of high-energy action. (***1/4)
Post-match, ROH ran a graphic for NJPW on AXS TV, noting Jim Ross’s announce debut is next Friday.
In-ring: Former NFL player Moose was introduced to the ring first for the biggest singles match of his career. Stokely Hathaway talked up Moose, who was sporting the Bobby Lashley headband tonight. No football helmet. Moose seemed a lot more comfortable, loose, and confident with his facial expressions than ever before. Time to drop some coins for the IWGP World champ. Cue up Kazuchika Okada, with Gedo, to a huge reaction. Corino called him the biggest wrestling star in Japan right now. Okada took his time posing in the corner as the crowd chanted his name.
Before the bell sounded, Okada did a dueling pose with the crowd. Moose did his Diesel arm pump, Okada responded with a fist raise, and they continued on with the crowd playing along. Great moment. Moose looks like a different person in the ring. Much more comfortable.
6 — IWGP World Hvt. champion KAZUCHIKA OKADA (w/Gedo) vs. MOOSE (w/Stokely Hathaway) — non-title match
The match started with the crowd hot for Okada. Suddenly, Moose teased his trademark leaping dropkick, but pulled away, trying to intimidate Okada. Okada smiled, then moments later teased his trademark elevated dropkick, but pulled away. Moose smiled after the exchange. After a struggle for control, Moose smashed Okada to the floor with his elevated dropkick.
On the floor, Moose swung Okada repeatedly into the barricade, smashing him into the laps of fans. Moose then tried a leaping splash, but Okada ducked and Moose crashed into the front row. Okada followed with a leap over the guardrail, splashing Moose into the crowd. “Okada, Okada!” chant from the crowd.
Back in the ring, Okada smashed Moose with forearms before grounding him with a headlock. Moose fought back as the crowd chanted for Okada, then delivered a big clothesline, but Okada popped up to his feet. So, Moose clotheslined him again for a two count. Moose then nailed consecutive powerbombs, but only got a two count. Moose wanted a big spear, but Okada moved and Moose ate the post.
Both men sold on the mat before Okada delivered consecutive forearm blows. Moose answered with chops, but Okada stayed on his feet. An uppercut from Moose. Okada then ducked a clothesline before nailing a backdrop across his knee for a two count. Okada followed with a top-rope elbow drop before hitting the Rainmaker Pose. Big zoom out from the ROH production team.
Okada wanted The Rainmaker lariat, but Moose ducked and nailed a running cross-body splash. Moose then did Okada’s Rainmaker pose. Okada ducked a lariat, missed with the Rainmaker, and Okada delivered two big textbook dropkicks. Okada then scooped up Moose for the Rainmaker, and he connected. Okada covered Moose for the pin and the win.
Post-match, the crowd popped for Okada’s victory pose, then Moose collected himself. Okada did Moose’s hand pump gesture to acknowledge his opponent, shook hands with Stokely, then ducked out of the ring.
WINNER: Okada at 10:30. Very nice singles match. Okada was Okada, while Moose had perhaps his best career match. There really was something different about Moose, who seems like he has crossed over from an NFL player playing a pro wrestler to an actual pro wrestler. He now looks comfortable in the ring. As for the New Japan stars winning the matches tonight, it’s expected with NJPW at a higher level than ROH. Plus, it’s been New Japan’s top stars against ROH’s mid-level stars, so – even though it’s a work – the perception is the New Japan stars should win these matches. (***)
In-ring: A.C.H., then Matt Sydal, then IWGP Jr. Hvt. champion KUSHIDA were introduced for the NEVER Openweight six-man Tag Title match. Big reaction for KUSHIDA, then Bullet Club members the Young Bucks were introduced. Kenny Omega, one-third of the tag champs and the IWGP IC champion, joined them out last singing his theme song on the end of a broomstick.
7 — NEVER Openweight six-man tag champions BULLET CLUB (IWGP IC champion KENNY OMEGA & NICK & MATT JACKSON) vs. MATT SYDAL & A.C.H. & IWGP Jr. Hvt. champion KUSHIDA — NEVER Openweight Six-man Tag Title match
The crowd was hot for everyone in the match, doing individual chants, then settling on an “All these guys” chant. Cue the bell. Great action early on, then the Young Bucks knocked Sydal off the ring apron right into the arms of Omega, who flowed into a release German Suplex right on the ring entrance. Very unique spot that wowed the crowd. Back in the ring, The Elite worked over Sydal. Meanwhile, the crowd played up The Elite trying to start something with the WWE tag champions by doing New Day’s chant.
Sydal fought back against Nick Jackson, but Omega cut off the challengers from making a tag. Sydal finally broke free of Nick to tag in KUSHIDA, who cleaned house. Handspring elbow to Omega, but Matt tripped KUSHIDA from behind. No matter, as KUSHIDA flew off the top rope with a big splash to the Bucks on the floor.
Back in the ring, KUSHIDA dropkicked Omega, crotch-chopped him, and nailed a dropkick. KUSHIDA followed with a top-rope moonsault for a two count into the Hoverboard Lock. Omega powered to his feet, though, and buckle-bombed KUSHIDA into a double enziguiri from the Bucks for a triple play. No pinfall, though.
A.C.H. tagged in and slammed Matt with a sidewinder suplex. Jumpin’ Stunner to Matt, but Nick broke up a pin. And break out the high-flying. Kelly and Corino sat and watched as the wrestlers flew all over the place showing crazy athleticism. A.C.H. capped it off with a leaping dive onto the tag champs on the floor.
Back in the ring, A.C.H. covered Matt for a two count. Sydal then tagged in and wanted a standing moonsault, but Nick intercepted him with a superkick. Matt then lit up KUSHDA with chops, crotch chops, and repeat until everyone superkicked KUSHIDA out of the ring. Double superkick to A.C.H. As the crowd chanted “The … Elite,” Omega dropped Sydal with a rapid-fire German Suplex. Then, all three champs superkicked Sydal. Omega stacked him up, but A.C.H. dove back into the ring to break up the pin.
Omega then tried Step 1 of More Bang For Your Buck, but Sydal got his knees up. Sydal followed with a leaping belly-to-belly suplex off the top rope to Jackson. A.C.H. and KUSHIDA then nailed a combination splash on Nick, but Matt and Omega broke up a pin. Chaos broke out, then KUSHIDA took a Tombstone on the floor. A.C.H. got wiped out, leaving Sydal to take a spike Tombstone into Omega’s One-Winged Angel. It was a bit complicated, but it was good for the pin and the win on Sydal.
WINNERS: Omega & Young Bucks at 16:57 to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-man Tag Titles. A match you can only do once a show, and it was a heck of an aerial display from these six. Plus, the wrestlers involved have such charisma and presence that it was more than just a bunch of spots. It’s about Omega & the Bucks thinking so highly of themselves that they think they are the most powerful force in wrestling, and then trying to prove it in the ring. (***3/4)
Video Package: War Machine vs. All Night Express for the ROH Tag Titles.
8 — ROH tag champions WAR MACHINE (RAY ROWE & HANSON) vs. ALL NIGHT EXPRESS (KENNY KING & RHETT TITUS) — ROH Tag Title match — No DQ match
The match started on the floor with War Machine in battle mode taking the fight to ANX before they got to the ring. The brawl sent ROH’s ringside staff scrambling to sell a big fight happening at ringside. Rowe suplexed Titus hard on the floor, so King blasted Rowe to the floor. But, Hanson back dropped King across the floor into a table.
The match finally made it into the ring with War Machine controlling the action. Rowe and Hanson just lit up Titus with eight, nine, ten consecutive running knees in the corner. The crowd seemed worn out from the previous match, so they were slow to respond. War Machine then brought weapons into the match looking to inflict more punishment.
Titus finally entered the ring to save Titus, then all four men brawled in the ring. War Machine followed with a combination Fall-out on King, but King kicked out. War Machine and the announcers sold shock over someone kicking out of their finisher. War Machine then tried a combination on the floor, but King smashed Hanson with a chair before throwing him through a table on the floor.
ANX took Rowe into the ring, where they hit their All Night combination finisher, but Rowe kicked out of ANX’s finishing move. After the even exchange, Titus went looking for weapons. How about a ladder? Titus placed it over the guardrail and ring apron, creating a bridge. But, Rowe ended up coming to life and sending King through the ladder with a uranage. Back in the ring, War Machine hit Fall-out for the second time, this time on Titus. It was good for the pin and the win.
WINNERS: War Machine at 11:20 to retain the ROH Tag Titles. Fine No DQ brawl trying to re-engage the crowd after the wild six-man tag match. ANX was a decent match-up for War Machine, and now many more teams are available to face the tag champs. (**3/4)
Video Package: ROH World Title match involving Jay Lethal, Adam Cole, and Kyle O’Reilly. One of the greatest “video package” promos in ROH history from Jay Lethal talking to the title belt.
In-ring: Adam Cole was introduced first for the ROH World Title match. Kyle O’Reilly was out next to a strong reaction. The World champ Jay Lethal was out last joined by Truth Martini and Taeler Hendrix. Bobby Cruise handled formal ring introductions for the “winner takes all” title main event, fulfilling the subtitle of the PPV on the cable TV listings.
9 — ROH World champion JAY LETHAL (w/Truth Martini and Taeler Hendrix) vs. KYLE O’REILLY vs. ADAM COLE — three-way match for ROH World Title
Nigel McGuinness joined Kelly and Corino on commentary for the main event title match.
Lethal picked his spots early on looking to get involved at the right time. He then dragged Cole out of the ring, traded right hands, and both side-stepped when O’Reilly came flying at them, causing Kyle to go splat on the ringside padding. All three men then battled in the ring, with Lethal taking the wrong end of a triple German Suplex. Lethal recovered on the floor while Future Shock battled in the ring.
Lethal re-joined the match to take a roaring elbow and giant blow from O’Reilly to knock down the champ. O’Reilly followed with a rear-naked choke, but Cole kicked O’Reilly out of the ring before nailing Lethal with the Shining Wizard. Cole went for a figure-four submission, but O’Reilly snatched Cole’s arm with an armbar. Cole made it to the bottom rope for a break, though.
The match moved to the floor, where all three men traded blows. O’Reilly momentarily got the upper hand, retained it with a forearm smash to Lethal, then landed a running dropkick on Cole from the ring apron. Big sequence for O’Reilly. But, Lethal surprised O’Reilly with a superkick to cut off his momentum. Lethal followed with one, two, and three suicide dives – two for Cole and one for Kyle.
Suddenly, Truth Martini entered the ring and did a Spin-a-rooni for some reason. Kelly called it premature celebrating from Truth. Truth exited, then Lethal dropped Cole with the Lethal Combination in the ring for a nearfall. Lethal then dropped O’Reilly with the Lethal Combination, but Cole tossed O’Reilly out of the ring and smashed Lethal with a neckbreaker across his knee for a two count.
Reset at 11:30. Lethal cleared Cole from the ring, but walked into a brainbuster from O’Reilly. Kyle transitioned to an armbar submission in the middle of the ring. Cole broke it up, though. No! Kyle grabbed Cole and put him in an anklelock while holding Lethal in the original submission. Lethal was fading. Lethal’s arm dropped twice, but Cole grabbed Lethal’s arm to prevent it from dropping a third time. Truth breathed a sigh of relief from ringside.
Reset at 13:00 with all three men on their feet. O’Reilly snapped on Cole, but took a double kick, only to respond with a double rebound lariat. Craziness ensued, then O’Reilly and Cole found themselves battling in the middle of the ring, opening themselves up to take a double Lethal Injection from Lethal. Wow. Lethal covered Cole for the pin and the win.
WINNER: Lethal at 13:44 to retain the ROH World Title. The main event built and built and built to a very strong conclusion. O’Reilly really showed fire in this match, while Lethal held his own as the top star in the promotion. This was very good, even in the over-done three-way match format. It’s just strange that Lethal is supposed to be the heel, but really shows no heel tendencies. He’s just the champion, making a babyface chase for the title less effective. Who’s next in line now? (****)
The PPV wrapped up with a quick highlight package on the top matches, concluding with Lethal standing tall, still the ROH World champion. The PPV signed off four minutes before midnight EST.
After the PPV, we’re looking for your Reax, 0-10 Score, and Best/Worst Match sent to email@example.com.