Pruett's Pause: ROH Best in the World 2014 - The pay-per-view debut featuring Michael Elgin capturing the ROH World Championship from Adam Cole, Red Dragon retaining, and standard poor production!
By Will Pruett
Michael Elgin is the new Ring of Honor World Champion and the 20th World Champion in Ring of Honor's 12 year history. This pay-per-view was built around this happening. Elgin's ROH run up to this point has built towards this happening. From his breakout match against Davey Richards in Miami on WrestleMania weekend in 2012, Elgin has been waiting for this moment. He accomplished it. Now what?
When I look at the ROH roster, I don't see an obvious first challenger for Elgin. Nothing on this show pointed to the future of ROH in any meaningful way. Where does he go from here? His run up to winning the championship was hit or miss. It seemed to stretch his character past what Elgin as a performer is capable of. He came around as the babyface challenger to the established heel, but what does he do now?
This is actually the second biggest flaw with this pay-per-view; there is no true sense of forward momentum in ROH. They debuted on pay-per-view, but where is the promotion going next week on television? What is going to happen in the fallout of this event? This show would have been an excellent season finale, aside from the lack of cliff-hangers.
We saw the main heel faction (Adam Cole, Matt Hardy, and Michael Bennett) go 0-2 in climactic matches. Anything done with them now should be a rebuilding effort, not a continuation of programs they've already lost. We saw mostly babyface wins, even in what could have been a star-making match for Silas Young, who was defeated in an unspectacular manner by the soon-to-be departing Kevin Steen. Even The Decade's one credible/worthwhile member was defeated via his own submission hold by an up-and-comer. There's nothing wrong with these things individually, but when they're all put together, we see a major flaw. There's nothing to be done moving forward.
Presumably, ROH found some new audience members with this show. This was the goal. They spent the extra money to go to pay-per-view in an attempt to attract new fans. If they succeeded, what is there to keep these fans engaged? What is drawing them back? The action may be amazing, but where was the big storyline hook?
The solution to this flaw would have been simple to book. A simple number one contendership match for a shot at the World Championship on ROH TV would have done it. As it stands now, we don't even know what will be on ROH TV for the next few weeks (their next taping is in the middle of July).
Aside from the issue of forward momentum, this was a pretty good show. There wasn't a bad match on the card and it was well-wrestled and constantly engaging. Ring of Honor still has a long way to go in the long transition from being a DVD product to being a TV product, but this was a significant step. Hopefully the experiment was worth it and we will continue to see ROH grow moving forward. They've got a chance to become a viable alternative wrestling promotion.
And now for some random thoughts:
- Production-wise, this show was a mess. ROH decided to add a giant pointless video screen, but didn't book a building capable of modern lighting. This is completely ROH's fault. The show had the same lens-flare issues that ROH has suffered from for 12 years. It was also almost completely dark outside the ring. The crowd might have been really large and really great, but no one could tell. We only saw three rows on each side of the ring. I can't understand why ROH doesn't turn on the house lighting for their shows, since even fluorescent light would be better than the glare we get now.
- Really though, what was the point of the video screen? How is it an improvement? On TV, it was a distraction. It was the brightest thing on screen and it had moving graphics. It took away from matches. It made the dark, dank arena look a little brighter, but it didn't make ROH look major league. What do they need a screen for? They don't have the same issues WWE does with visibility and they don't put individual graphics up for entering wrestlers. This was a fiberoptic star curtain away from looking like a 2011 EVOLVE show.
- I wish wrestling companies would take the less is more approach to production. ROH is trying to do a lot, but they aren't doing any of it well. If they focused on one thing and doing it exceptionally and functionally (perhaps lighting) before they tried to get fancy and before adding unnecessary elements, they'd be better off. Doing one thing well is better than failing at a lot of things. ROH's production on this show made me enjoy the show significantly less.
- The opening six man was a really fun way to engage people with the fast-paced style ROH wrestlers can work. Everyone got a small moment to stand out (aside from B.J. Whitmer, who couldn't stand out if he tried ). ACH stole the show with his dives and such. I could get into an ACH vs. Jay Lethal series.
- Speaking of Jay Lethal, I'm not a big fan of the woman accompanying him to the ring. The idea is that she is super strong, but I'm just not buying it. One wrestler with two managers is a little much for me in the scaled down ROH world anyways.
- Why is Truth Martini still employed by ROH?
- Matt Taven still isn't connecting with the crowd the way he is supposed to. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it was evident here that the people were not behind him.
- Roderick Strong vs. Cedric Alexander was a really well-wrestled match. Strong worked hard to get Alexander over and Alexander held up his end. This was an example of a talent truly being elevated to the next level. Alexander could use a match or two against some other notable ROH names now.
- The Briscoes vs. Matt Hardy and Michael Bennett was a nice, slightly overbooked spotfest. This is not a complaint. It gave ROH an opportunity to establish their authority figure, Nigel McGuinness, and establish that there are no cheap finishes and shenanigans in ROH.
- If Matt Hardy is on his way out of ROH, he should be commended for working so hard and taking so many risks in his final match there. He didn't phone it in at all.
- Moose is not going to be a star.
- Kevin Steen vs. Silas Young was a disappointment to me. It wasn't a bad match, but it didn't live up to my expectation of Steen making a star out of Young. I enjoy Young's gimmick and think he fits nicely in ROH, but this just didn't click at the level I expected it to.
- Indie wrestling as a whole needs to put a one to two year moratorium on all post-match promos. What used to only happen in a special seemingly spontaneous moment are now common place. Steen's promo wasn't special and only allowed Young to save face. I would have rather just seen a post-match attack without the promo from Steen.
- Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly might be my favorite act on the indie scene right now. Their "Fish Tank" segments are really entertaining and they definitely get it done in the ring. ROH is featuring them nicely as tag team champions.
- Red Dragon vs. Christopher Daniels and Kazarian wasn't quite what I expected it to be. I was hoping for a barn-burning tag match and this was mellower. It's not a bad thing, but it is a slight disappointment. I understand trying not to upstage the main event, but this is a time when the main event could have been upstaged a little.
- Nigel McGuinness just kind of showed up on commentary and never left. Why? He actually really disrupts the chemistry between Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino. I was enjoying the announcer's approach to the show until McGuinness began sitting in. He's a great authority figure, but an awful announcer.
- Cole vs. Elgin was a great match with well-designed run ins and near falls. They didn't need all of these tricks, but they made good use of them. Elgin looked like an unbreakable monster. Cole looked cowardly but skilled. This was some nice action and it was definitely the best match of the night.
Please don't take the criticism as me saying I didn't enjoy the show. I really enjoyed this show. It was fun to watch, well-paced, and well-wrestled. It was worth the $25 ROH charged for it. I have no regrets about ordering it. My criticism comes from a place of wanting ROH to move forward. They need to look different (and look better). They need to get the tacky indie wrestling tropes out of the way. They need to do better. I believe they can and I believe they will in the future. It just might take some time.
What is encouraging is seeing signs of growth in ROH for the first time in a long time. We are seeing them evolve and change and there are growing pains. Hopefully this is truly a company on the rise.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter @itswilltime.
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