1. Bryan Danielson vs. Jack Evans - 4
2. Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal vs. Irish Airborne - 3
3. Colt Cabana vs. Claudio Castagnoli - 2
4. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong vs. BJ Whitmer and Adam Pearce vs. Homicide and Ricky Reyes vs. Jimmy Rave and Sal Rinuaro - Ultimate Endurance Match - 4
5. Nigel McGuinness vs. Delirious - 5
6. Briscoe Bros. vs. KENTA and Davey Richards - 7
7. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles - 6
Danielson stretches and pummels Evans, which I was delighted by. Bryan as bully is a lot of fun. Once, Jessie and I were watching a Kane versus Finlay match, he made a remark about how Kane sucks, and I said, “Well, if I’ve got to watch him wrestle anybody, I’d want it to be Finlay.” That’s the art of the counterbalance, if you’ve got to watch a shitty worker, if he (or she) is at least pared up with a real talent, then it’ll be as painless as possible. That’s how I felt about the opener, as Evans is one-dimensional and if you’ve seen his act once, you’ve seen it a trillion times; but if I’ve got to watch Jack work, I can only hope it’s against as credible an opponent as Danielson. Sydal and Daniels and the local boys (they’re from nearby Dayton, OH) had a decent tag bout. It marked the beginning of the Matt and Christopher team; I thought they worked well together, both with smooth styles that complimented the other. This match doesn’t deliver a lot, though, as the Airbourne boys look as nervous as ROH creator Rob Feinstein at a pedophile court hearing. Cabana and Claudio had a crap fest, doing some sub par British-inspired mat-work, with Castagnoli eventually showing his true colors and leaving sportsmanship behind. I don’t have a problem with technical stuff, but, if you’re going to do it, make it look fucking believable. I mean, wrench that damn headlock, act like you’re actually trying to hurt the other guy, etc.
The four-team match is moderately good, any hope of storytelling is shattered, as with this many guys involved seemingly randomly, everyone’s just worried about short bursts and getting their own stuff off. It’s fun enough, however, as they keep it moving and there’s flashes off stiffness peppered throughout as most of the guys are laying some of their stuff in. Steve Corino returns, looking like a disgruntled video store clerk, interfering and ruining any chance of a conclusive finish we’d invested thirty minutes into. Nigel and Delirious wasn’t bad, taking the angle that Delirious couldn’t comprehend the Pure Title rules, thus McGuinness used it to his advantage to get an upper hand. There was one section where Delirious had Nigel in the corner and delivered 50 short clotheslines consecutively, but, he paused after the 49th one, as he was rearing up for the final shot Nigel crumpled to his knees and when Delirious swung, it drilled Nigel right in the face instead of its intended target. The second-half of the match showcases Nigel’s meaner side, which is enjoyable, as he really starts beating the hell out of Delirious.
I loved the tag match; Kenta steals the show, just being ridiculously stiff, delivering crippling kicks and some of the nastiest openhanded slaps I’ve ever seen. Richards tries to keep up, but Kenta outshines him thoroughly. There’s sections where its obvious the Briscoes are standing there waiting for one of the guys to get off one of their offensive spots, and with the audio up you can audibly here a few spots being called, but even those cons aside, this is still a whole hell of a lot of fun. The Briscoes try to match Kenta in sheer stiffness, and they do deliver some hard shots, so this boils down to a potato fest for our viewing pleasure. The brother dynamic works for Mark and Jay here, too, as one brother will get annihilated, and you can connect with the sense of urgency that the other is feeling to try to get in there and get retribution.
The main event is AJ Styles’ last ROH match (or, at least it was billed as that at the time, not sure if its correct). He and Joe work a physical match, which is such a breath of fresh air compared to the relatively sterile and lifeless TNA product they’re currently recognized with. I know it’s harder on the athletes themselves, but damn, does it make a world of difference, as when its physical like this it’s so much easier as a viewer and fan to dispend belief and be genuinely wowed. They don’t go real long, nor try for an epic, but there’s excitement and adoration shown via the crowd’s energy. Another thing that bumped this up for me was a completely unexpected and anticlimactic finish. Now, you may be asking, anticlimactic, wouldn’t that be a bad thing? No, the word may carry a connotation that’s negative in other contexts, but in wrestling, it can be very good. In Japanese wrestling, you don’t always see guys relying strictly on “finishing maneuvers” the way its marketed here in America by WWE, but, they’ll often win with any number of moves, whatever is fitting to the story of the individual match. This is another big helper in lending credibility and believability to matches. Here, after a barrage of stiff slaps, Joe locks in a “Cobra Clutch” then tosses AJ in a suplex. He goes for the cover, and to my surprise, AJ doesn’t get up—it happened without any particular build, the crowd didn’t see it coming, and I thought it an excellent way to end a match and ROH career.
After the show there are some promos, one that I’ll remember for a long time, as Samoa Joe cuts a serious piece on Danielson, then leaves through the backdoor. The cameraman follows Joe outside where we see, in-between two semi trucks, the back of a guy who’s making out with someone. Joe acts offended, and says, “hey Cabana, hey, man!” but the dude doesn’t respond, so Joe yells “hey douchebag!” and throws his towel at the guy. Then the couple shimmy away awkwardly, the guy never turning around to reveal his face, and that’s the end of the program… pure unintentional hilarity. Anyway, this show made me feel affection for ROH that I haven’t felt in a couple years. The product, for several reasons, has taken a nosedive. But, this is a reminder of a simpler, and stiffer, time. Top to bottom it’s not a great show, but there are a handful of really good moments on it, and it’s worthy of a watch.