Ring of Honor made their broadcast pay-per-view debut last Sunday with "Best In The World," after sticking with the Internet pay-per-view model for quite some time.
The event wasn't exactly going to make or break the company, nor was a complete failure going to damage their future plans if they ever wanted to dip into the paid-television model again.
The event took place in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Tennessee State Fairground Sports Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, complete with seven matches including some of the company's top stars like The Briscoes, Kevin Steen, Michael Elgin and the ROH World Champion, Adam Cole.
At first glance, the setting looked like your basic ROH display. The promotion wasn't going to do anything fancy, event if it was their first time being broadcast on major cable and satellite providers for the first time in 12 years.
And that's a good thing, too.
The ring didn't need to be changed; since it's patented black canvas was joined by the posts and ring ropes of the same color, along with a stage and ramp that didn't need any fine-tuning. ROH fans knew exactly what they were paying for, so there's no reason why the props should have been glamorized.
Plus, if you've ever been to an ROH show, you'll agree the chairs are all mismatched once you get there (sometimes there are numbers missing), you can't find anyone who works for the company in terms of security, and they basically set up shop with a ring, a merchandise table and one beer table.
The video montage that opened up the program was pretty awesome, which included the majority of the roster speaking about themselves being the best. It seemed like a throwback to how superstars used to say something short ahead of the Royal Rumble Match in WWE's annual January event, even though the ROH products said one word.
The matches were solid for the biggest ROH show yet, but there was something lacking. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was, although something felt like it was missing.
The opener saw ACH defeat Tommaso Ciampa, B.J. Whitmer, TaDarius Thomas, Caprice Coleman and Takaaki Watanabe in a Six-Man Mayhem Match for a future ROH Television Championship match. It was a perfect match to kick things off, with ACH winning because he's possibly the most over wrestler in that entire group. I'm not saying Ciampa doesn't have his devoted followers, yet it was the right move on the booking side of things. On that note, Ciampa should have moved onto greener pastures by now.
The ROH Television Championship match pitting Jay Lethal against Matt Taven was decent, and the crowd was invested in their match. It wasn't exactly the best offering, since the two athletes looked a little lackluster with each other at times, but it did the job serving as a good match in the first half.
Ultimately, Taven was distracted by Truth Martini's escape, courtesy of Seleziya, which enabled Lethal to get the win. The end result was a little frustrating, since Martini's supposed exclusion from the match didn't work out and match stipulations shouldn't be destroyed because of cheap interference.
Cedric Alexander submit Roderick Strong in their Submission Match, with Alexander using the Stronghold on Strong. It's interesting to note Strong didn't apply his own submission maneuver for the course of the match, but that probably sums up why he tapped to it in the end. This feud really gained some steam leading up to their bout, and it was treat to see Alexander dabble into submission moves he's never tried before.
The card started to pick up with The Briscoes vs. Matt Hardy and Michael Bennett, which opened up with a promo from Maria, who could be the most underappreciated valet in all of wrestling today. They teased to absurd ending, which would have seen The Briscoes win by disqualification, so it was a pleasure to see the match resume (courtesy of Nigel McGuinness) with No Disqualification rules.
Fans of The Briscoes must have been extremely happy to see them get the win, since they've been with ROH since day one. Say what you will about Hardy's physique, he can still take a few bumps and get the crowd going, even if they're against him. Bennett is a good wrestler, but who knows if he'll ever be great. Having Maria on his side helps his case, but so does someone like Matt Hardy.
Kevin Steen will be joining WWE, and he confirmed last night that his ROH contract is up in approximately 45 days. His last program will be against Silas Young, who he beat on Sunday Night. Young is a natural heel with a great move set, but some are reluctant to believe Young has what it takes to send Steen out with a bang. The match itself was entertaining, complete with a typical Steen promo at the end, ruined by Young's attack after shaking the Canadian's hand and walking away.
If the program turns violent in the upcoming weeks, all the better. Young is an up-and-comer, who could benefit off this feud, and who knows; maybe it could do great things for Steen ahead of his stint in WWE.
The tag team championship was on the line between reDRagon vs. Christopher Daniels and Kazarian, and to be honest, the match was incredibly slow apart from the last five minutes. That doesn't mean it was bad, but the crowd was a little distraught from the ending of Steen vs. Young.
Daniels proves he belongs back in ROH, while Kazarian was great as well. reDRagon are exceptional wrestlers, and Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish are certainly the go-to guys to hold the titles. Maybe it wasn't exactly the best bout to serve as the co-main event, yet these two teams should have another go sometime soon to make up for the lack of promotion and excitement.
Finally, Adam Cole was the perfect champion to promote for the organization's PPV. He's got the looks, charisma and talent, which is pretty much the total package. His match against Michael Elgin was an incredible main event you'd watch over and over again. After Cole delivered a superkick from hell to referee Todd Sinclair, it enabled Bennett and Hardy to interfere, only to be ousted by Hanson & Rowe later on. Elgin's wife MsChif neutralized Maria's interference after spitting green mist in Bennett's wife's face, which capped off the outside play from those involved. Elgin then nailed Cole with the championship, followed by a Revolution Elgin Bomb and only received a two count. Fans threw streamers in the ring, thinking the match was over, and then proceeded to chant, "We f---ed up," repeatedly. Elgin eventually won the match, hitting Cole with another Revolution Elgin Bomb to become the 20th champion in ROH history.
It wouldn't have been terrible for Cole to keep the title, since he's going to work in New Japan Pro Wrestling alongside a few other ROH notables, and also because his reign as champion wasn't really exhaustive yet. That said, the way the match was shaping up, it would have been a little cliché to have Cole win. Basically, the storytelling had Elgin winning all along.
These matches were good, yet something else should have transpired. Whether it was the lack of backstage or in-ring segments, or a match regimen in which there were only a few seconds between the next contest, ROH needs to step up their game on the PPV platform for the event to resemble a show. It was a damn good debut, but how will this appeal to wrestling fans in general, and not only fans of the Pennsylvania-based promotion?
You don't need the grandiose spectacle of fireworks and bright lights, but more cameras, the inclusion of surprises and even instant replay during the matches could have sufficed. Who knows exactly how much coin the Sinclair Broadcast Group has, but surely, it could improve its production if the company wants to stay on PPV.
All in all, it's a good start. If you've tuned into ROH before, you weren't disappointed. You weren't exactly captivated either, yet if your expectations weren't too bold, you turned off the television in a fairly happy state.
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