Promotional Art for a Ring of Honor tag team gauntlet match, featuring ReDRagon, The Young Bucks and The Addiction

This week's ROH featured a 7 team tag gauntlet, with the winning team earning a future title shot against champions War Machine.  Now, the eventual winners of the gauntlet (Roppongi Vice) or even the matches themselves really don't matter for today's column, which will be a single lesson.

Lesson: WWE doesn't care at all about tag team wrestling.

Ring of Honor dedicated an entire hour long show to tag team wrestling.  The only way that would happen in WWE is if the teams were thrown together pairings purely for storyline purposes.

Ring of Honor used 7 tag teams and didn't even include some of their most popular duos, such as The Briscoe Brothers or All Night Express.   Looking at the WWE Superstars page, I can only count 8 regularly pairing teams on the entire roster, and that includes The Matadors, who we haven't seen in ages and The Ascension, who don't matter one iota.

Now, I'll grant you that ROH didn't use their all-stars in this gauntlet. Teams like the House of Truth (sans Donovan Dijak, so what's even the point?) or Brutal Bob and. . . the other guy. . . weren't going to light the place on fire.  Regardless, those teams were given a chance to shine.  The last time we saw Diego and Fernando was in a dark match BEFORE a Main Event taping.   Yeah, I know, I didn't even know they did those.

"What about NXT?" you might be asking right now - "They have teams like American Alpha and The Revival and those guys are great!"  You'd be absolutely right in saying so - They also have Enzo and Cass and the Vaudevillains. . . and I suppose Dingo and Clap Clap. . . But that's about it.   Have there been any other tandems made that we should care about?  Not that I've seen.

Another question you might have is, "So What?"  Does it really matter if WWE doesn't care too much about tag team wrestling?  Well, perhaps not to you, I suppose, and once again, that's just fine if that's your opinion.  For guys like me, though, I think tag wrestling is an art, which is why I'm so delighted each time Dash and Dawson come on my screen.

It's also why I'm grateful we have promotions like Ring of Honor.  They are willing to devote an entire hour of programming to tag teams, just like they can tap into their New Japan connections to bring international stars to our shores that most US fans haven't seen.

It might be a pain to watch for some of us, but if you're not watching ROH on at least a semi-regular basis, you're missing out.

The benefit of snow days is that it gives you time to catch up.  This is my second ROH TV of the day, and I even fit in a movie as well!  If I ever disappear off the face of the Earth, you will find me in Zootopia.

Top Prospect Finals - Lio Rush vs. Brian Fury

I have two lessons for this one - a minor and a major.

Minor lesson - The beauty of keeping other people safe.

I wrote in the column for ROH from 2/27 about the inherent danger in wrestlers of vastly different sizes going up against each other.  Lio Rush and Punisher Martinez made sure to avoid contact with each other, and I understood why.  This match highlighted the opposite of that, and I thought it was really telling as to the skills and person that is Brian Fury.

Now, I'm not a wrestling expert and I've never claimed to be.  So I could be completely wrong on this, and I am aware of that.  But go back and watch this match again - When Lio Rush dives over the top rope, one can distinctly see Brian Fury duck and dart forward, providing a human cushion for Rush to land on.  There is really no logical reason for Fury to do that in a kayfabe sense, so I submit that he did this solely for the protection of young Lio. I was glad to see it.

We've seen the rash of injuries in the last year - We know that wrestling is a dangerous sport.  Guys like Fury do the best they can to make sure that nobody is injured on their watch.  I have to respect that.

Major Lesson - The Top Prospect Tournament needs to take place in NXT / WWE.

Titan Sports has never been shy about borrowing from other promotions, including Ring of Honor.  (Remember when Seth Rollins was WHC and US champion for no particular reason?)  The TPT would be a great thing to borrow.  Who knows, maybe that is what this Global Cruiserweight Series will wind up being.

There's a lot of talent in the NXT developmental system, and as I've tweeted, talked and probably even written about, it's going to be hard to give everyone the time they need if they keep signing new talents every 12 minutes.  Doing some sort of tournament, which would focus on the lesser known guys (Rich Swann, Chris Girard) would be a great way to give some guys exposure.  NXT and WWE brass could see what they had and how the crowd reacted, giving them an opportunity to streamline, tweak or fast-track as needed.

I think this would be beneficial for all involved.

Kongo vs. Moose

Lesson - Rusev is being criminally misused.

It might seem odd that a lesson from a ROH show would apply to a WWE superstar, but those who saw this contest should be able to see my connections.  Kongo, who I have never seen before, is a larger superstar who moves with grace and speed, and was a whole lot of fun to watch.

Rusev is the exact same way, except he also has some legitimate fighting experience under his belt.  How is he NOT breaking down the door of the main event scene?  This isn't just because I made the #PreDCtion that he'd contend for the World Title at some point in 2016 - He seriously is an amazing athlete.  If you can get a high quality match out of somebody who looks and has the name recognition (ie, none) of Kongo, Rusev should have NO TROUBLE getting over.

With the right gimmick, of course.

Note: This lesson could also be applied to Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and any other athletic big man not getting a fair shake.  The era of the super-heavyweight is over, folks.  This is what "big men" will be like in wrestling from now on - Let's embrace it.

Cedric Alexander vs. Adam Page

adampage

Lesson - Adam Page should try some sort of Clockwork Orange gimmick.

With the entrance video and the trunks, he's halfway there already.

Oh, and he looks like Oliver Queen.  That is all.

Dalton Castle vs. Christopher Daniels

Lesson - Multiple wrestling promotions are a very good thing.  

I've been a Christopher Daniels fan ever since I first watched The Era of Honor Begins back in college; in fact, he'd probably be included in my list of Top Ten Favorite Wrestlers of All Time.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he made my Top 3 for last year's NAI150.  As for the Peacock, I'm a Castle fan as well, so I was naturally going to really enjoy this match.

What struck me as I watched was this, though - If these guys were in the WWE system (either NXT or the main roster), what would they be doing?  Dalton is just a more athletic and flamboyant Adam Rose - Would he be part of the Social Outcasts?  The Fallen Angel, while a huge name in the independent scene, wouldn't have the same excitement that Styles or Aries did, so he'd already be fighting from behind by the time he made his debut.

In other words, there's no way we'd be seeing either of these two great wrestlers anywhere near the main event scene, so I'm grateful that promotions like ROH exist to be able to highlight them.

We rejoice each time we hear that new names have signed with WWE, but I think this is one of those 'be careful what you wish for' situations.  The probability that this just leads to more complaining about talents being "b-----" is getting a bit too high for my tastes.

One of the things I'd like to do with DDTpod.com is start crafting columns for the wrestling I watch, and since I happen to have a snow day today (on the second day of spring, no less), I decided to try to catch up on my Ring of Honor viewing.

I have a hard time watching ROH regularly.  Part of it is the inconvenience of it all, and I mean that in the most first world of ways.  Logging onto my desktop, going to the website, logging in, finding where I left off - I mean, man, what a hassle!

Still, I always enjoy it when I do watch, so I'll try to be better about this, NAIborhood.

Rather than providing an actual review, which you can find anywhere, let's go back to my Teacher Days, and I'll try to provide a lesson one can learn by watching each match.

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Silas Young and the Beer City Bruiser vs. The Boys

Lesson:  Depth of talent matters.

I'm a huge Silas Young fan, as I've mentioned multiple times before, but in this case, I want to talk about everybody else in this match.  Let's start with the Beer City Bruiser, someone who is far more capable in that ring than his size should allow.  Between him and Adam Cole later in the show, I might have to start a petition to start seeing the Wheelbarrow Suplex in WWE - such a good move!

I was also impressed with the abilities of the Boys, whatever their names are.  I was thrilled to see them have actual tights and boots to battle in and they did a pretty admirable job in the ring.  I'm not sure if they are long-term fixtures in the ROH tag scene, but I hope they get a chance, because they were fun to watch.

None of these talents are anywhere near the top of the card yet they were still able to put on an entertaining and engaging opening contest.  You have to have that.

Brian Fury vs. Action Ortiz

Lesson: Experience matters, too.

Sure, I could spend this time talking about the amazing dive that Bam Bam Bigelow Ortiz did, and that was super impressive, but we're focusing on Fury.  In both of his ROH matches so far, we've seen him win by taking advantage of his 17 years of experience.  In his opening match, he grabbed the referee, keeping his opponent from hitting a top rope maneuver and then quickly picking up the win.

In this match vs. Ortiz, he used the momentum of a fall to score a cheap low blow that looked very much like an accident, following it up with his impressive powerbomb.  We don't see this kind of thing often.  I was reminded of watching NWA PPVs on WWE Network - this is how the Four Horsemen cheated back in the day.

Since these shows are pre-taped, I know what happens in the finals, but regardless of the outcome (#SpoilerFree), I hope Fury sticks around in ROH, because he's a lot of fun.

Punisher Martinez vs. Lio Rush

Lesson:  Size matters.

Full disclosure - I didn't realize there was a theme to my lessons here until reading over the first half of the column.  Happy accident, that was.

While this match was good, the fact that Martinez was a full foot taller (not to mention probably 100+ pounds heavier) factored into the quality.  We saw on a couple of occasions that the two wrestlers avoided a full-on collision, probably because it might have squashed poor little Lio.

I'm not taking anything away from either competitor - Punisher looks like he belongs on Lucha Underground ASAP and Lio Rush has a lot of skills for a rookie, but this is one of the reasons why I feel that having weight classes isn't a bad idea.  Martinez' dive over the ropes would have been a whole lot more stunning had he actually connected with Lio with anything but his hair and his fingertips.

Matt Sydal vs. Adam Cole

Lesson: Adam Cole is as natural a talent as Kevin Owens.

AdamColeKevinOwens

I love Adam Cole, babayyyyy.  Everything about him screams professional wrestler, despite the fact that he doesn't have the stereotypical muscle-bound look.  But the way he walks, the way he talks, the way he has the crowd in the palm of his hand. . .

Sounds like our current Intercontinental champion, doesn't it?

Adam Cole and Kevin Owens were both born to be professional wrestlers.  More specifically, born to be heels, even though the crowd goes crazy for them.  They each have the innate gift for this business, and that's why I firmly believe Adam Cole signs with WWE by the end of 2016.  Contracts be damned, whatever Adam's is.  It's going to happen.

BABAYYYYYYYYYYY!

I don’t remember when I first heard about Ring of Honor.  I’m guessing it was in college (since it was founded in 2002, it couldn’t have been in high school), but at one point or another, I got my hands on a couple of DVD’s, including their first event, The Era of Honor Begins.  I still have that DVD, in fact, and every now and then, I would pop it in and watch the Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. some kid named American Dragon Triple Threat match, which to this day is one of the better matches I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t keep up with ROH, partially because it was difficult to find back in the pre-streaming service days but mainly because the entirety of the promotion’s existence (up until last year) was during my wrestling sabbatical.

I’m sure I’ve written about this a time or two, but as days go by, it occurs to me how long my break from pro wrestling was.  In truth, while I’ve been a fan of the sport since 1992/1993, the majority of that time was spent not watching actively.

I originally had a whole timeline in this section, but in order to save time, I will sum up.  I watched voraciously until college in 2001, when it dwindled a bit, especially my WWE viewing.  It ebbed and flowed throughout my post-secondary education, ending completely when I fell head over heels in love with, at the time, the future Mrs. Matthews.  From late 2005 - 2014, my wrestling viewing was reading results on WWE.com.  I’m not joking.  The WWE Network saved my pro wrestling life, along with a couple of guys called the New Age Insiders.

As you can see, I missed quite a lot, which might explain why all of my “pop culture” wrestling references involve Mantaur and “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright.

When I first came back to Vince McMahon’s warm embrace, I decided to solely focus on the WWE Network.  There was so much incredible content to watch, I wouldn’t have the time for any other promotions.  Besides, while I did enjoy that first ROH DVD, it left a lot to be desired.  The announcing was terrible (even by 2015 standards), the production value was lower than I was used to, and the wrestling, while exciting and high-spot happy, didn’t always tell me the kind of story I was used to seeing.  (Besides that Triple Threat).

I held out quite a long time, much to the chagrin of the NAIborhood.  Despite Jason Moltov practically screaming at me that Ring of Honor was right in my wheelhouse, I resisted.  “Maybe when I finish all the WCW and ECW PPVs, and then I catch up on everything I missed in WWE, I’ll give Ring of Honor a try,” I mused.  “Besides, it’s not like it has a TV deal or anything.”

Cut to last week’s announcement of ROH moving to Destination America.

“Damn it.”

To be fair, I’ve started watching Lucha Underground (though I tend to binge 7-8 episodes, then stop watching for a month or so), and enjoyed it, so I knew that I was more than just a “Stamford Guy”.   And while I don’t pay for cable, not that I would have gotten Destination America even if I had, last night I figured that enough was enough, and it was time for a change.

Whenever you can quote Owen Hart, do so.

I signed myself up for a Free ROH membership via their website, which allows me to watch the most recent episode of ROH TV.   That was, as of last night, episode 192, I believe, which is the episode prior to the one most of you saw on DA yesterday.

So now, some 850 words later, I present to you “DC Diaries: ROH TV” edition.

Michael Elgin vs. Caprice Coleman

This match, the first ROH contest for me in over a decade, was slightly disappointing.  There’s no denying that both Elgin and Coleman are talented individuals, but I didn’t get as involved in this contest as I would have hoped to.  Perhaps that was my own fault - I definitely went into this with a “OK, ROH, impress me!” kind of mentality, but I found the match choppy, as if it was the first time these guys had ever wrestled each other.  And that might be true, I suppose.

While I’ve heard plenty about Elgin in the past via the NAIborhood, he didn’t do anything that made me stand up and take notice, other than look like what you would get if you took Big E’s musculature and put it in Chris Benoit’s body.  Caprice Coleman, on the other hand, had a moment or two that I was impressed by, specifically his (I’m just guessing at the name - Where are you when I need you Mike Tenay?) Asai moonsault from the inside-the-ring edge of the middle rope.  I’m just wondering why “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero is OK with letting Coleman steal his outfit.

(Did I mention that I watched some TNA during my college years?)

I didn’t come away feeling particularly optimistic after this match, and was certainly glad I hadn’t forked over any money for my ROH membership.

The Announcers

I was pleasantly surprised to see Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino calling the action. I remember Kelly from his WWF days and while I didn’t see a lot of Corino in ECW (something hopefully remedied during the summer), I do remember him announcing that original ECW show.  It wasn’t pleasant.  Obviously he was trying to get the name of the promotion over, which is why he said “Ring of Honor” every 3.8 seconds back in the day.

On the show I watched last night, though, these guys were good.  Their voices are almost too similar, which made it a little hard for me to discern which one was which, but I enjoyed their commentary and what they brought to the table.  Plus, they did a whole lot more match-calling than you get in WWE, which is always a welcome experience.

The Commercials

I was reminded of watching ECW back when it was on TNN in the late 90’s, and that’s not a bad thing.  Obviously these guys are a low budget, local TV show, and that’s just fine.  I don’t ever need Jay Lethal to sell me insurance again, but it was entertaining for a while.

The Backstage Promo

Lethal (another guy I watched in TNA) and Truth Martini (either one of the best or worst wrestling names ever) had the promo this week.  I spent most of my time trying to figure out whether or not Martini was a brother or cousin of The Jackal / Cyrus, another guy from the late 90’s WWF / ECW.  Turns out, they’re not related, but I’m sure Martini has taken some bit of inspiration from Don Callis.

For example, the stable The Jackal ran in WWF? The TRUTH Commission.  Just saying.

I don’t personally think Lethal needs a mouthpiece, but it was solid enough work. \

Then you had Kyle O’Reilly, who looks so much like my brother in law it’s a little frightening.  He also looks like he’s 14 years old, which before the match that was to come, I thought would be a big problem if he ever wanted to have a WWE career.

Jay Lethal vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the “Don’t Call it TV” title.

Has anyone ever tried to save your soul?  Anyone ever come to your house to talk about our Lord and Savior?  Do you think it’s possible to be converted to a new religion in 30 minutes?

It is, and the reason I know that is because in a half hour time limit draw, Mr. Lethal and Mr. O’Reilly made me a ROH believer.

Holy hell, this was a good match.  I talked about how the ROH I watched 10 years ago lacked storytelling - this match had it in spades.  Kyle O’Reilly is a beast - You don’t realize until you watch him how utterly and completely sad the art of submission wrestling is in WWE.  This guy is something special, you all weren’t lying, and considering most of the NAIborhood loves his tag team (ReDragon) even more, I can tell I am in for a treat.

As for Lethal, the guy who was basically a super athletic Damien Sandow in TNA has matured into a grizzled ring general.  He seemed very comfortable to let O’Reilly be the star of that match, which reminded me of Triple H back in the early 2000’s and what he did with guys like Taka Michinoku and Shelton Benjamin.  Lethal still had his moments as well, and while I won’t call him the greatest first generation wrestler in history, he really is quite good.

I loved this match from beginning to end.  Seriously, I don’t rate matches very often, but if people wanted to give this one five stars, I couldn’t argue with them.  Amazing job.

The Ending

It seems to me that some of the hardest bits of a wrestling TV show to book would be the last 5 minutes.  You’re running out of time, you want to end on a high note, but you can’t go crazy each and every week.  The Ring Of Honor guys know how to do it, because I was transfixed by the post-match shenanigans.

The Jay Briscoe I remember was a tag specialist with a generic singlet.  I don’t know who the hell he morphed into now as the ROH Champion, but I loved the promo and the potential for another match with O’Reilly.  I really thought it was going to happen, despite seeing there was less than 2 minutes on the clock for the entire show.  I should have seen Lethal coming, but that’s what happens when you’re totally bought into the show, you wind up getting surprised in spite of yourself.

Overall Thoughts

Only two matches on the card, but with that breathtaking display from Lethal and O’Reilly, I didn’t come away disappointed.  I’m in on ROH, though I’m not dropping down my credit card and signing up for a year’s subscription quite yet.  I’ll continue to avail myself of the weekly TV show and see how engaged I become.

Besides, if I wind up with access to the WWE AND ROH archive, it’s entirely possible that Mrs. Matthews would pull a Scarlet Witch on me.

“NO!  MORE!  WRESTLING!”

. . . I love when I can end an article with a nerdy joke.

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What do YOU think?  Are you on board the ROH bandwagon?  What should I be most looking forward to?  Be Heard.

podcast@ddtwrestling.com
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