SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
-Before I get started here, just let me say that the fact that there is no audience and no enhanced sound for ROH at this time definitely impacts the hit and miss quality of the matches and the show. While the announce team does a good job of trying to generate the excitement that a crowd would contribute, it’s just not the same, especially with being able to see crowds at AEW and WWE shows now. While this is a major issue, ROH can still put on very good shows with lots of enjoyable action and wrestlers that are fun and entertaining. Okay, let’s get to the hits and misses.
-The cold opening promo with the Foundation recruiting Joe Keys in the locker room to step in for the injured Jonathan Gresham was pretty quick and simply setup the introduction of Joe Keys to, for lack of a better term, the main roster. Not really a hit or a miss, just there and functional.
-Moving on to the opening with Brian Johnson as the on-camera host for this week’s show. The segment had Johnson heeling it up as he introduced the matches, while calling himself the best talker on ROH. While it’s nice to get a run-down of the show, Johnson just came across as irritating rather than heat building. This was a miss, sorry Brian.
-The first match featured Fred Yehi (a pure style specialist) vs. Ray Horus. The announcers billed this match as Yehi being out of his element in a “non-pure style” match. Both men shook hands at the beginning of the match and the match started off with some mat wrestling as the wrestlers exchanged moves. In the empty auditorium, the relatively low-impact wrestling was not very engaging. As the action picked up after the commercial break, the pace picked up with some high-flying moves. After exchanging a couple of near falls, Yehi and Horus continued to exchange moves until Horus withstood the Kochi submission and got the pinfall with a top-rope modified hurricanrana. When there was action, the match was okay. The problem was that both wrestlers took too much time between moves, almost appearing to be acting as if there was an audience reaction that they were playing to when they were in an empty arena. This one was a miss.
-After the break we got a quick segment with Mandy Leon cutting a promo on Quinn McKay, building up their match later in the show. Angelina Love entered the promo at the end and then they cut to McKay answering Mandy. McKay, in true babyface fashion, countered all of Leon’s points and gave an impassioned mission statement. This promo was basically a hit, mostly carried on McKay’s sincerity and passion.
-Next up we get the match between Leon and McKay. Of course, following the “Code of Honor,” McKay offered a handshake and Leon used the opportunity to deck McKay and then grab a microphone and taunt her. Leon pounded on McKay for quite some time, while Angelina taunted her from ringside. McKay staged a comeback, but Leon got the upper hand as the show went to commercial. Back from the commercial, Leon was in charge, but McKay hit a powerslam and was too tired to follow-up. After being tossed into the ropes, McKay was able to hit four variations of the neck-breaker and lock in her submission, the Tangerine Dream. Leon actually tapped out, but the ref was distracted by Angelina and didn’t see it. After this, Angelina passed Leon some brass knuckles and Leon was able to nail McKay with them without the ref seeing and got the win. This match was an opportunity for McKay to get into a tournament for a shot at the title After the match, Maria Kanellis Bennett, who is on the ROH Board of Trustees, made it seem like she would right this injustice. Stay tuned, Quinn McKay looks like she is going to get her shot. While a bit clunky at times, both women had several good spots, especially McKay, making this match a hit.
-Pre-match promos from both Shane Taylor Promotions and The Foundation with Keys were quick, brief. and fine for what they were — standard pre-match promos with wrestlers saying they are going to win. Not a ton here, neither a hit nor a miss, just there.
-As an eight-man tag, there was bound to be a lot of fast action and confusion. It did not disappoint in that area. The match was obviously set up to introduce Joe Keys and in the opening part of the match he showed very well against these bigger men, but ultimately was brutalized by Shane Taylor. With Jay Lethal in the ring, the action continued with several tags and an exchange of moves and strikes, with solid selling by all involved. All in all, the wrestlers worked hard and well with each other, laying in their strikes and moves without any obvious misses or air between the strikes. At the same time, the announce team did a good job of keeping track of the action while also filling in the characters of the wrestlers making the match easy to follow. This also helped build the rooting interest for the viewers. The action got fast, and furious as multiple wrestlers were in the ring at the same time and the thought of tags went out the window completely. The action was fast and furious until finally it was the two legal men left in the ring, which led to the finish with Joe Keys being power-bombed and pinned by O’Shay Edwards after Keys got in several shots on Shane Taylor (to build him up). This was a clear hit. The match was fast paced with eight wrestlers who worked well together and told a good story (Joe Keys’ introduction from the Dojo). It was hard-hitting with good selling. Overall, a fun 16-minute plus match.
As I noted above, ROH is working at a real disadvantage without any fans or piped in sounds. The good matches are still good, but those that are borderline suffer.