By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
ROH Best in the World Hits
Jonathan Gresham vs. Mike Bennett for the ROH Pure Championship: The best match of the night. The false finish with Bennett seemingly going over totally got me. The reintroduction of the Pure division has provided a spark for ROH, and they definitely have the right guy holding the championship. Gresham matches never disappoint, and he seems much more confident in the way he carries himself. Bennett deserves a lot of credit for leaving his comfort zone for the Pure division and doing a really nice job of holding up his end of the match.
Tony Deppen vs. Dragon Lee for the ROH TV Title: A hot match with Lee regaining the championship that he never actually lost. Tracy Williams beat Kenny King, who filled in for the injured Lee at the 19th Anniversary pay-per-view, and then Deppen beat Williams in an ROH Wrestling television match. Deppen’s suicide dive into a Destroyer on the floor was fantastic, though I hope we don’t see that risky spot emulated by wrestlers who aren’t capable of pulling it off as flawlessly as he did. Bring on the rematch. I wish there was a way that it could take place on this week’s ROH Wrestling television show.
Brody King vs. Jay Lethal: This was the match where the show found its groove. The undercard had some ups and downs, but this match kicked off the series of strong matches that put the show over the top. King dominating Lethal was the right call. Lethal has done some key jobs coming out of the pandemic break yet has maintained his credibility as one of the company’s top wrestlers. This was King’s biggest win in ROH and I look forward to seeing what the company does to follow up on it.
Jonathan Gresham and Rhett Titus vs. Chris Dickinson and Homicide in a Fight Without Honor for the ROH Tag Titles: ROH pushed the Freebird Rules to the limit by first announcing that Jay Lethal would replace Tracy Williams, followed by Jonathan Gresham stepping in after Brody King destroyed Lethal. Gresham working twice in one night gave his team an out for losing. The feud between The Foundation and Violence Unlimited felt like it was just getting started, so it felt premature to make this a Fight Without Honor. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining match and I was legitimately surprised to see Homicide work so hard at this stage in his career.
Demonic Flamita vs. Rey Horus: A strong opener in the ongoing battle between the lucha stars. I mistakenly assumed that Flamita would win to garner more heat following his recent gimmick change, but ROH went with the crowd pleasing finish by having Horus go over clean. The finish is even more surprising in retrospect given that Bandido won the ROH World Championship and also has issues with Flamita. That said, I sure wouldn’t complain about getting a Bandido vs. Horus match on the ROH television show at some point.
Chelsea Green debut: I wasn’t a fan of Green going with an anti-WWE promo beyond the “So this is what freedom looks like?” line at the beginning. That line was more than enough, and the rest felt like sour grapes. I’m sure most of the wrestlers who deliver those promos have plenty of legitimate gripes, but the anti-WWE promo been done so many times that it feels cliche in most cases. Ultimately, I gave this segment a Hit because Green showed confidence and poise while delivering her promo, and because she’s a really good get for a division that needs star power.
Josh Woods vs. Silas Young in a Last Man Standing match: A well worked match that saw the right guy go over. Woods continues to stand out as having the potential to become a real player in ROH, so it was the right call to have him what should be the deciding match in the feud with his former mentor.
Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe vs. PJ Black and Brian Johnson: It was a letdown for the Briscoes to follow up their Fight on the Farm with a random match against Black and Johnson. Still, it ended up being the usual crowd pleasing Briscoes style tag team match.
PCO and Danhausen vs. The Bouncers: The live crowd seemed to enjoy this match more than I did. PCO and Danhausen are over even though I get the feeling that ROH’s creative forces aren’t quite sure what to do with Danhausen. He’s such a unique character and he’s not an obvious fit with the company’s more traditional style and so I can’t blame creative, but he’s also such a fun and popular act that hopefully they can carve out the right role for him. Meanwhile, ROH dedicated a lot of television time to The Bouncers’ heel turn and it hasn’t really gone anywhere since then.
ROH Best in the World Misses
Rush vs. Bandido for the ROH World Championship: As much as I like the decision to put the title on Bandido, I didn’t care for the way the company went about doing it. Rush dominated Bandido to the point that he could have pinned him in the opening minute and opted against doing so. Rush also kicked out of Bandido’s finisher late in the match. When Bandido actually got the pin, Rush’s shoulder was clearly up before the three count. Still, the company had a chance to close its first show back in front of fans on a high note with a big babyface celebration. Instead, Rush and his LFI crew attacked Bandido and left him lying. As much as winning the title should have made this Bandido’s night, it came off like the creative forces were far more concerned with protecting Rush.
Matt Taven and Vincent segment: The logic used in this segment was baffling. And, no, Vincent being a crazed Charles Manson wannabe doesn’t give them a pass for the logic gaps. Taven was willing to put his ROH career on the line to get Vincent in a match. And I can live with the logic that Vincent wants to keep him around to toy with him even if this is billed as their final match, but I’m just not sure why they would even bring that up when the stipulation they are going with felt underwhelming in comparison. If Taven was willing to give up his ROH career for this match, why wouldn’t Vincent ask Taven to give him his ROH Title shot rather than making it something he has to earn by beating Taven in the cage match?
EC3 vs. Flip Gordon: Meh. While I was all for EC3 attempting to reinvent himself with the “Control Your Narrative” slogan and new brooding approach, it’s starting to feel like he came up with the initial concept and has yet to figure out what to do next. Gordon continues to feel miscast as a heel, and it was strange to see him lose clean given that he’s scheduled to challenge for the ROH World Championship at the Philadelphia tapings in August.
Shane Taylor, Moses, and Kaun vs. Dalton Castle, Dak Draper, and Eli Isom for the ROH Six-Man Tag Titles: A soft Miss for a match that confused me on paper. I cover the ROH Wrestling television show every week and yet I had no idea why Draper and Isom would agree to team with Castle after he interfered in two of their matches and hit them both with low blows. I felt like I missed an episode where something brought them together. On a positive note, I continue to enjoy Shane Taylor Promotions, and the SOS team of Moses and Kaun seem to improve with each outing.