MAIN EVENT: ONE OF WRESTLING’S MOST HAZARDOUS BATTLES
ROH All Star Extravaganza was a strong in-ring show that paved the way towards Final Battle well. Unquestionably it will be remembered most for the wild main event, a thrilling and dangerous stunt show that will have both its supporters and detractors. ROH has also found a sweet spot when it comes to its use of New Japan wrestlers, using them to supplement and enhance the ROH regulars rather than overshadowing those ROH stars as NJPW often did during previous joint shows.
I’m of the view that the dangers of pro wrestling, intrinsic and unavoidable given fan expectations in 2016, are often fretted about too much here at the Torch. We all want the wrestlers to be safe, but it’s just a fact of life that wrestlers are going to take risks and the major companies by and large have taken real steps to minimize the most dangerous of those risks. With that said, I cannot object if anyone wants to come down harshly on the Ladder War between Addiction, The Motor City Machine Guns, and The Young Bucks. The ladder match has produced some of wrestling’s most hazardous battles and this match was in line with that perilous tradition. It’s fortunate nobody was seriously hurt.
On the positive side, what an unbelievable spectacle it was. The ladder war gimmick is used sparingly by ROH and the wrestlers pulled out all the spots knowing that. This did not feel like just another ladder match after we’ve gotten used to the standard ladder match spots over the years. Hopefully ROH has a good plan going forward with Christopher Daniels because his great promo this week combined with the emotional resonance of losing the tag titles in this incredible match leave an opportunity to tell a great story. It was also a fitting start for Matt and Nick Jackson as tag champions as they are known for this kind of spectacle. As champions, they can go on towards or at the end of the show and tear down the house every time.
STRONG UNDERCARD AT ALL-STAR EXTRAVAGANZA
-Michael Elgin was a strong first major challenger for Adam Cole, capable of having a great match with him and then able to put him over strong with no worries. Elgin got in all his impressive power spots before losing in the end. With Cole and the Bucks, ROH now has its major titles in the hands of its most over acts, a desirable situation that hasn’t been the case with ROH all that often in recent years.
-It was surprising how decisive Jay Lethal’s win over Tetsuya Naito was. Lethal had Naito nearly beat once before interference and then he just did it again. It serves two purposes, giving Lethal a strong win to rehabilitate him after losing his title to Cole while also setting up an IWGP Intercontinental Title challenger for a future New Japan show.
-Kyle O’Reilly vs. Hangman Page felt cold from an audience reaction standpoint but it was good technically and I liked the finish a lot. The armbar can be applied suddenly and when it is locked in, it’s not a hold you can sit in and try to get out of without seriously risking a broken arm. O’Reilly getting it quickly and the match being over abruptly over time builds drama in defending the hold and adds drama to matches when they feel like they can end abruptly. Of course, they were undermined in that goal by Toru Yano and Kushida in the very next match, a solid six man tag with an upset finish.
-Dragon Lee’s win over Kamaitachi was another very good match by those two, albeit below the level of some of their other matches. The goal seemed to be to put over CMLL in the commentary and the match result since ROH wants to work a lot more with them in the future. It was surprising to see Colt Cabana and Dalton Castle win the tag title shot, although that’s likely just a setup for the Young Bucks. It was a strong match although I felt the desire to do spectacular spots undermined the strong grudge component they’ve been setting up with War Machine against Taylor and Lee.
-It was satisfying to see ROH just let Donovan Dijak be the hero at home even if he’s a heel elsewhere. The mentality to try to turn heels on their hometowns almost always comes across as contrived and phony and leads to diminished audience reactions. They let Dijak have his supporters even if the ultimate goal was to put Fish over strong with the choke out.
-Finally, on the subject of contrivances, the ROH opening segments with the wrestlers all delivering the same lines and finished each other’s sentences feels so phony and rehearsed. They need to ditch that for good, particularly since they’re competing with a major league that has such a weakness in that regard. Letting the wrestlers speak in their own unique words is much more effective.
(Todd Martin is a veteran pro wrestling and MMA analyst and columnist. He has been with PWTorch since May 2015. Follow him on Twitter @toddmartinmma. “The Fix with Todd Martin” hosted by PWTorch editor Wade Keller is a VIP podcast recorded every mid-week, usually two hours in length, discussing the top stories in pro wrestling, reviewing new books and documentaries, answering VIP member question, and ends with a review of last weekend’s MMA events and a preview of the upcoming weekend’s MMA events. Read his latest MMA columns at Sherdog.com HERE. He also reviews PPVs regularly in the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter “Roundtable Reviews” feature, available exclusively on the PWTorch VIP website. He also participates in VIP Audio Roundtables after most major PPV events. Details on becoming a VIP member, including ad-free access to PWTorch.com and ad-free editions of the PWTorch Livecast, and 75-100 VIP-exclusive podcasts per month, CLICK HERE.)