It has been a natural progression for me to like some of the under the radar facets of pro wrestling. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Steve Austin vs. The Rock and Flair vs. Steamboat, but I also like watching some low-grade stuff like Mitch Ryder telling off hillbilly fans and two non-personality grapplers locking up in a GUTS world show. This is why the lineup for the ROH Conquest Tour Philly show impressed me so much. The booking of this show wasn’t much in doubt in most of the encounters. The ROH and IWGP Junior title matches both had a 99% certainty of their end result. However, I looked up and down the card and found a lot of unique pairings and solid encounters and realized that I had some sort of vested interest in every match. This was reminiscent of the outstanding ROH show I attended in Atlanta last February which stands the test of time as match by match one of the best wrestling shows I have ever been at live.
The end product delivered. I didn’t think this show was as good as that previously mentioned Atlanta show but the vibe carried over in watching the show. I couldn’t help but make mental notes after every match of another ***+ and that the consistency of the show really struck a strong cord. I also thought that while the booking was never in doubt on most matches, the elevation of the talent was apparent and showed ROH working toward a changing of the guard in the top portion of the card. This is especially important moving forward as the revitalized indy scene is beaming currently with hungry, younger talent from all corners. Dalton Castle established the show right from the onset. His promo before the tag match was inspired and really showed how over he is with the live Philly crowd and ROH’s audience in general. It is unfortunate that two huge marquee matches in him vs. Nakamura and him vs. Omega have been cancelled due to circumstances beyond his control. I anxiously await the Fight Without Honor blowoff that is approaching on TV between Castle and Silas Young and then seeing where Castle goes from there. The sky is the limit for him at the moment and I don’t think a ROH TV title run at some point in 2016 would be the worst direction for Planet Peacock.
Cheeseburger is the perfect indy niche star that has amassed a great following by being something totally unique from the rest of the roster. That is someone that has obvious physical limitations in his skinny size, but it wasn’t used as a detriment and instead as a positive for him to work that much harder to gain traction within the promotion. Burger teaming with the Briscoe Brothers felt like a big deal and a big showcase. The match was one of the funniest matches I have seen in 2016 so far. Everyone was able to hit their signature spots and the simmering feud between War Machine and the Briscoe Brothers continued to boil. I expect those four individuals to have an amazing match down the road for the tag straps. ROH tag division overall is incredible with War Machine, Briscoes, Addiction, MCMG, reDRagon and Young Bucks all around the scene. Even after this show, you could throw Adam Cole and Roddy Strong into that grouping as well. The tag division for ROH is a differentiator from any other indy company going today.
ACH, much like Castle, is one big win away from really establishing himself as a top talent in ROH. Both his best-of-five series with Matt Sydal and his offering vs. Kushida here show that ACH has developed some maturity to reign in some of the more spectacular moves in his arsenal and use them for maximum effect. The IWGP Jr title match was match of the night from most of the reviews I have read on this show. The match didn’t quite hit that level for myself but the finishing sequence was excellent and Kushida continuously going after the Hover submission created a great narrative for the culmination.
The two tag matches before the main event have all established acts but it also was the first official reunion match for the Motor City Machine Guns. The three way tag match had all the staples you would expect including a ton of comedy from the Young Bucks and innovative dives and superkicks galore. The finish was grand as Daniels and Kaz execute the Best Meltzersault Ever in a great moment that looked brutal. The other tag with reDRagon vs. the make shift team of Cole and Strong also included a surprise finish that showed the inexperienced team pick up a big win over one of ROH’s most established tag teams. These two matches together showed that ROH has eight esteemed stars that can be used interchangeably with each other for entertaining results or to elevate some of the younger talent mentioned earlier.
The main event was a tale of a redemption story for both Lethal and Sydal. Lethal has continued to gain a reputation with each successful defense. Sydal came back to the indy scene and initially found some rocky results and a feeling of slight disinterest. That has been extinguished with a vigor in the past year with Sydal going on a spectacular run that equals anything he did inside the squared circle before he was WWE bound. Lethal heavily focused on the back in the match and that played a pivotal role in the finish where Sydal crashes through the ringkeeper’s table.
All in all, ROH has taken some definite blows in the past year via talent depatures. A show like this that is top to bottom chalk full of very good after very good match is a great reminder that ROH was the leading force in the indy boom 15 years ago and they have a reserve full of talent that is anxious to become the ROH legends of today.