This past weekend, Ring of Honor dove headfirst into the world of pay-per-view, airing Best in the World 2014 live from Nashville, TN. It was the first live PPV in the company’s history and looked at as a major step forward on many levels. With a highly anticipated card on paper and a lot of buzz around the wrestling world, this was ROH’s chance to become the Kings of Wrestling PPV in this weird new world we now live in. Steve Wille and Justin Rozzero both lent their support to the company on Sunday night by ordering the show and have compiled their thoughts on what went down in Nashville.
Match of the Night
Justin: I was honestly hoping for a bit more competition here, but a few of the matches expected to hover over the **** came up just a bit short due to a variety of reasons. Once the closing bell rang on ReDRagon’s tag team title defense, it was very clear that the pressure was squarely on the shoulders of Michael Elgin and Adam Cole to make or break the show as a whole. And they delivered. This was a fantastic main event that perfectly paid off all of the angles intertwined in this feud. We got to see MsChif pop up to gain her revenge, spewing mist in the face of Maria. We got to see War Machine elevated up the card as Elgin’s watchdogs, running off Mike Bennett and Matt Hardy and potentially setting up a future tag team feud that could be a lot of fun and quite different than what we usually see in ROH. And we got to see Elgin FINALLY win the big one, something he desperately needed to do after all the starts and stops since 2012. Cole had a fantastic run and I hated to see it end, but if Elgin didn’t win here then he would have been dead in the water as a potential company ace. On top of Elgin losing in the finals of the World Title tournament after refusing to be handed the title, once Cole & Co. sheared Elgin’s beloved mullet and put their hands on his wife, he had to cash in on this opportunity. The match was overbooked a bit, but this is a situation that called for it as Cole should be pulling out all the stops to save his strap. The action was great with a couple of tremendous near falls, one that was so great that it even tricked the live fans into chucking streamers into the ring before chanting a mea cupla, and some really stiff bumps, including a nasty Cole Destroyer and a series of bone rattling powerbombs that ended the bout. Michael Elgin has finally ascended to the top of the company and did so by carrying his company’s biggest show on his broad shoulders.
Steve: When you’re called on to be the main event of such an important show, you need to deliver, and Cole, Elgin and their associates surely did that. We’ll speak more on the prevalence of parlor tricks on this show, but this was the match that needed it. Little had been said of War Machine since they were hand-picked by Elgin as his guys, but there they were, chasing away the remainder of the Kingdom after Elgin desposed of the decimated duo of Hardy and Bennett. As Justin stated, Elgin had to win here, both to keep him as relevant and as a feel-good moment at the end of the first PPV. Cole and Elgin have opposed each other several times in the last two years, and they called back to several moments, including teasing the Super-Murder-Death-Kill top-rope powerbomb that won Champions Vs. All-Stars for Elgin (and concussed Cole) last year. I, too, wish there was more competition for this award, but Cole and Elgin likely would have won best match regardless.
Justin: It isn’t exactly a surprise that Kevin Steen is packing his bags and heading for the sunny skies of Orlando. Hell, the man himself even said as much in his post match promo, thanking the fans and basically announcing an ROH Retirement Tour. The fact that he was wrapping it up led many fans to believe that Silas Young would pick up that marquee win he really needed to help get him over the hump and fill the void that Steen would be leaving behind. Thus, when Steen won the match clean, I was shocked. You could argue that the post match shenanigans actually put Young over more than if he got a cheap win, but a W is still a W, and an L is still an L. After the bell, Steen talked about his respect for Young, putting over his talent level and hoping they could wrestle again before he left. Young accepted the praise and walked off…before coming back to attack Steen at the very last minute. Yes! It looks like the feud will likely continue and Young will get that win that he needs and we are left to assume this win was a thank you for Steen and all he did to get ROH to this point.
Steve: The biggest literal surprise? I expected Silas to attack Steen post-match, but they let it build enough that I thought the moment passed, until, BAM, Young appeared out of nowhere to take out Steen’s knee. I actually jumped in surprise at that moment. My biggest overall surprise was the production of the program. I was expecting missteps, and saw few. The picture quality was excellent, video packages well-produced, and the commentary team did a nice job, save for some awkwardness adapting to a three-man team. I’m sure Jim Ross is still complaining about the lighting, but that costs a significant amount of money to upgrade and could come with continued successses. That looked like a pretty decent sized crowd in Nashville.
Justin: Matt Taven. I am still waiting for it to click but it just hasn’t yet. He has the look and the ability and he has proven he can be a heel or face and be effective enough, but it seems like he is having a really hard time getting to that next level, despite a lot of opportunities over the past sixteen months. This was a prime chance for him to make that leap with a match against consummate pro Jay Lethal with a title on the line and a robust storyline backing them. And it still just didn’t click. Taven never feels smooth out there, it never feels like he is at ease or just having things flow at an easy pace. It always looks like he is thinking about what he should do next and it is leads to choppy matches. Mix in the Truth Martini stuff with Taven constantly going after him and the match felt stuck in neutral with Lethal as almost an afterthought. We should also mention the weird sidebar with security staffer Jay Diesel taking a payoff from Truth and then awkwardly blocking a weak superkick, slapping Taven on the neck and then eating a second superkick attempt. The whole thing was odd and made Taven look like a bit of pussy. I am not ready to cash out on Taven completely, but I hope he can turn things around quickly before it’s too late.
Steve: I’d steer more away from Taven and consider that entire match as the biggest disappointment. Lethal, always one of ROH’s better workers, ended up being the fifth most important person in that match, behind Truth, Taven, and, for some reason, Jay Diesel and Seleyzia. With what was to come in the main event, and, to a lesser extent, the Alexander/Strong and Briscoes/Kingdom match, all of this chicanery was unnecessary.
MVP of the Night
Justin: The easy answer is Michael Elgin here, but we already covered that in depth above, so I will take a different path here and choose ACH. Slotted in the opening match alongside a cavalcade of opponents and ringside floaters, ACH was in a tricky spot. With so many bodies around him and the fans and viewers settling in and getting adjusted to the atmosphere, it would be easy for each of the competitors to blend in to the background as the dance went along. However, ACH worked hard to stand out and easily steal the match before getting his hand raised at the end with a picture perfect 450 splash that came on the heels of a wild somersault tope to the floor. ACH is a star in the making (theme music aside) and this was a great showing for him to get the fans rocking early.
Steve: After reading that parenthetical expression deriding my guy ACH’s theme music, I realized why I like writing with Glenn Butler so much better than Justin. Elgin and ACH were my first two choices for MVP, but, to be different, I’ll pick Adam Cole. Baby. I’ve really enjoyed his reign as champ, watching him continue to advance his heel persona and grow into a genuine superstar. He already had the look, and now he’s honing his craft, becoming one of the true all-around talents in the business.
Would You Buy Another ROH PPV?
Justin: Yes, certainly. I won’t sit here and say the company hit a home run, in fact I thought it was a struggle at times. It felt like they got away from being ROH and slipped into tossing too much out there and overbooking in a way that led to distractions more than angle development. But I know this product well and I know what type of show they can deliver on a consistent basis. Hell, even on a down night the show was still very good. It just wasn’t GREAT. However, they did a really good job in the areas that we had questions on: the lighting, the production, the HD, the announcing, the flow. It was all on point. The wrestling will always be there, but it was a great sign that the production qualities delivered at such a crucial time.
Steve: Definitely. As those who follow my writing or appearances on the Main Event, I prefer independent wrestling and, despite its corporate ownership, I still consider ROH a large independent. And as a supporter, I tend to spend my dollars to support the “little guy.” If it can deliver cards more similar to the supershows in May, or even some of the tighter house shows I’ve seen in Milwaukee the last couple years, these shows will become “must sees.” I may not be calling them the “little guy” much longer.
Was it a Success?
Justin: Yes and no. It was a really good PPV with a memorable main event and a nice mix of talents new and old. I enjoyed it and felt I got my $25 worth. However, my only concern is fans who were giving ROH a first try. Fans that aren’t aware of how great the company can consistently be. My concern there is that this was a down night for the in-ring action and for fans looking for an alternative, the hook of ROH has always been their killer matches and not the overbooking of storylines and constant run-ins or interference. And we got more of the latter than the former. This was in no way a bad show that would drive viewers away, but was it the hit it needed to be to lure in fans on the fence or checking in for the first time? I am not so sure.
Steve: I’d give it a more stronger yes. It’s no secret that Ring of Honor has a history of technical snafus delivering live shows. They’ve tried multiple providers both in-house and outside of the promotion, all with various difficulties. This was an experiment using the traditional PPV model, one that they tried under previous ownership to lackluster results. While we may not know the buy rate, in terms of the technical side, it was a tremendous success. The addition of the big screen, though cliche in wrestling cirlces, added to the look of the production, and the upgraded graphics fit in with the quality of the HD picture. Now that they’ve proven they can put on an event from the technical side, perhaps the next PPV event (maybe quarterly) can bring a more solid card.
– GOOD: The Briscoes vs. Hardy/Bennett match was a lot of fun despite the really slow start. I am not sure why they didn’t go No DQ from the start, but once they did it got really good and was a great payoff for the Briscoes to finally shut Matt Hardy up.
– BAD: Nigel McGuinness in the booth. I love Nigel, I do. But leave Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino alone to do their shtick. They are great together and were cranking along through the first half of the show. Nigel completely derailed the chemistry and the three man booth just did not mesh at all. It almost felt like Corino had left altogether at times and that is never a good thing. More Corino = More Buys.
– GOOD: ReDRagon vs. Bad Influence seems to have flown under the radar because it wasn’t HOLY SHIT THAT MATCH but it was still really damn good. Kaz’s selling was top notch and played right into the submission finish. ReDRagon continues to deliver and prove themselves as the best tag team in the world. Bad Influence will be back and I hope this feud continues. Also, big ups on the Marvel related tights, a nice tribute to fanboy Ben Morse of Marvel.com.
– BAD: I love the Decade. I don’t like BJ Whitmer. At all. The postmatch bruhaha with Corino was interesting, but I am just done with watching him drag down the pace on matches that don’t need to be dragged down.
– GOOD: When Cedric Alexander split off from C&C Wrestle Factory, Cedric’s peers, including Kevin Steen and Michael Elgin, raved about his potential. Outside of his show-stealing match with Andrew Everett at the Pittsburgh event in January, I didn’t see it. But working with Roderick Strong and the Decade these last couple months pushed Alexander to a new level. It looks like the feud between Alexander and the Decade may not be over; it will be interesting to see where Alexander goes next.
– BAD: As Justin stated earlier, there were times that the matches devolved into overbooked territory, something not generally seen in most ROH bouts. The show gave the company a chance to reestablish what sets it apart from the status quo. Its principal rule, the Code of Honor, was adhered to in less than half the matches. It may be nitpicking, but I watch Ring of Honor and other independent organizations because they’re different. I’m worried that, in an attempt to appeal to the mainstream, ROH might get away from what made it so appealing to begin with.
– GOOD: Overall flow of the show. It kept moving along, with quick video packages introducing the feuds before the matches. There was very little down time, it was not overly long, and it was short on the overbearing “skits” so often seen in WWE and Impact. And was that the classic WWE voice-over actor from the Attitude Era in the opening package? Nice touch.
– BAD: I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt since Bob Evans and Kevin Kelly extolled his virtues, but that promo with “Moose” was hideous. Thank goodness for the beautiful and well-spoken Veda Scott who saved that segment. Here’s hoping that it was opening night jitters for the ex-offensive lineman.