Tuesday 25 June 2013

Best in the World 2013 review

The title of Satursday’s Best in the World presumably didn’t refer to the quality of the internet stream. Yep, ROH had issues in that area again. I've written about ROH's streaming problems so many times that I'm bored of the subject. The sentiment I've expressed before is basically that ROH should have more respect for their fans than to continually offer shoddy streams and that being owned by a broadcasting company should mean these issues are far rarer.

Since Saturday it’s become something of a moot point. Finally admitting defeat, Ring of Honor announced that they are discontinuing their internet pay-per-view offerings. They will instead record their shows and upload them as video on demand content, allowing them to ensure the highest quality possible.

I think this is a move they should have made a while ago. Streaming issues have been plaguing ROH’s internet broadcasts for years, so much so that it had reached the point that a flawless stream was considered newsworthy. The lack of a live atmosphere and the floods of spoilers are a small price to pay for offering a reliable product that fans know won’t let them down.


Best in the World’s opening match saw BJ Whitmer tangle with Mike Bennett. Their match was nothing special. What happened afterwards was more interesting. Maria blamed 'Brutal' Bob for 'The Prodigy's' loss. She didn't really have much of a point: Bob had run into the ring and been immediately thrown out by Whitmer. He had no impact on the match outcome. Bennett lost clean after being hit with an Exploder suplex.

Maria shouted at Bob as she left with Bennett. Bob followed them, bellowing pleas for reason. I assume the group is being split to free 'The Brutal One' up to manage someone else once Bennett leaves for NXT.

The second match was the one I'd looked forward to most: the American Wolves versus Adrenalin RUSH. What I saw of it lived up to my high expectations. Thomas and ACH didn't look at all out of place opposing two former world champions. Richards seemed to be on form, having fun encouraging "Yes!" chants and good naturedly using traditionally heel tactics. Free of the pressures of the main event Davey is a far more enjoyable personality.

The Wolves won. Adrenalin RUSH put up a strong fight though. I'd like to see a rematch on TV at some point. Singles matches wouldn't go amiss either. Richards v ACH could be incredible.

Match three was preceded by footage of recent altercations between Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. The story was that Cole refused a handshake after losing to Strong in San Antonio, which irked Roddy. They shook hands here though, which Kevin Kelly theorised was Adam Cole admitting he was wrong to refuse it to begin with. If only we could block Kev out.

The streaming issue cuts seemed particularly prevalent in this match, so certain transitions were lost on me. What I managed to see was great. Cole and Strong work very well against one another.

Eventually they headed on to the ring apron. Chops (needlessly stiff ones of course) were exchanged, with Cole ultimately giving up on them in favour of a superkick. That sent Strong tumbling off the apron and through a table.

Cole made out as though he was torn on what to do, take the count out win or be the good sportsman and help his opponent. Corino screamed at him from the commentary position, telling him to think of himself and take the victory. Cole's conscience seemed to get the better of him as he slipped out of the ring to help Strong to his feet.

Cole revealed his true nature after a few seconds, pushing Strong down to the floor and getting back into the ring just as the ref reached twenty (yeah, they get a twenty count in ROH, deal with it). He seemed very pleased with himself. I was just pleased the stream had held out long enough for me to make sense of the sequence.

Steve Corino followed Cole to the back. The official heel turn is a step closer.

Yet another chunk of footage went missing after that. The next thing I saw after Corino gushing over Cole (not like that) was Kevin Kelly being joined by RD Evans and Veda Scott. For some reason Kelly said he'd rather have RD with him at ringside so Veda Scott left. If there was a point to her presence it was lost on me.

A man of questionable morals

The final match of the first half was Michael Elgin versus Tommaso Ciampa. The audience was split on who to support and remained so throughout the match. They did react more to 'Unbearable's' delayed suplex than to Ciampa's if that means anything to anyone. But then it's his move, so you'd expect that.

Thankfully the stream held out for the particularly exciting end sequence. Ciampa blasted Elgin with Project Ciampa and was astonished when he kicked out. 'The Sicilian Psychopath' took his foe out to the apron and gave him a Kryptonite Crunch, then took him back into the ring to attempt another Project Ciampa. Elgin reversed into a conventional power bomb and followed up with a buckle bomb. Ciampa managed to kick out and apply a triangle choke.

Elgin hoisted the mohawked one up and dropped him with a powerbomb but it wasn't enough to break the hold. Elgin went for another buckle bomb but 'The Dominant Male' rolled through and scored with a hard knee to the head.

That still wasn't enough to end the bout. Nor was the lariat that Elgin pounded Ciampa with seconds later. It would take three spinning back fists, a rolling elbow to the back of the head, and a final hellacious lariat for Elgin to finally put Ciampa down for the count.

The match, particularly the finishing sequence, was expertly paced. That's becoming one of Elgin's more obvious strengths as a performer. His bigger matches tend to build to frantic exchange of big moves and finishers.

After the match QT Marahall strolled to the ring. What he and the rather natty suit he was wearing got up to will remain a mystery as the video I watched cut out just as he neatly folded up his jacket. When it came back on QT and Evans were stood outside the ring. Presumably he attacked both Ciampa and Elgin. Maybe the two powerhouses will team up to take on the amusingly named Marshall Law? Hey, it's not like ROH prioritise turning Elgin into a star or anything.

The second half opened with a video that showed how the two triple threat matches came about. It was pretty well edited but it didn't do anything that Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness (who commentated the second half) couldn't have done with a sentence or two.

Matt who?

The TV title match was one of the more severe casualties of the streaking troubles. One moment I was watching Taven get introduced to some impressively loud boos, the next I was watching him land on his opponents at ringside to cheers. He followed that up with a Mark Henry impression, shouting "That's what I do!" into the camera. At least the stream managed to catch that!

The middle portion of the match was pretty slick. You'd expect that from MTV though: he's been in a ton of three-ways over the last few months (and I'm not talking about the Hoopla Hotties!). Everyone carried themselves well. It was a lively affair.

What I assume was the ending sequence was bizarre. Scarlet entered the ring to distract Jay Lethal and got her top yanked off for her troubles. As the referee pawed at her (by which I mean gave her a towel) Truth Martini entered the ring, allowing Jimmy Jacobs to spear 'Black Machismo'. Truth begged off from 'The Zombie Princess' until Solicia (the other Hoopla Hottie, whose name is probably spelt incorrectly) got in between them. Jacobs pie faced her out of the way. It was a bit of a dodgy thing to book but he is a heel and fans are smart enough to know it's an act. What came next is far harder to shrug off. Solicia scooped Jacobs up on to her shoulders and then took a full force super kick to the face from Jay Lethal.

Pie facing someone is one thing, booting them in the head is quite another. On top of how uncomfortable it was to see it was also done by a babyface. They're the ones who are supposed to have moral fibre and a sense of honour. Or at least they used to. Apparently in 2013 it's absolutely fine for a good guy to kick a defenceless woman in the head.

What that led to I have no idea. The next thing I saw was Taven celebrating and Jimmy Jacobs angrily pushing his way backstage as Kelly intimated that he'd had the match, and the belt, won.

The technical issues really ruined the flow of the match. I've no idea how it started or how it finished. The middle was good, as was the beginning of the presumed finishing sequence, but it felt very disjointed.

The three-way tag team title match, reDRagon defending against the C&C Wrestle Factiry and SCUM boys Rhett Titus and Cliff Compton, was decent enough. It was never going to be anything special with Compton and Titus involved. The good news is that O'Reilly and Fish defended the titles against Coleman and Alexander in a conventional two-on-two match at Sunday's TV taping. We'll get what I'm sure will be a superior match for free. That's not bad.

Back to Best in the World. reDRagon retained their titles after Fish knocked out Alexander with a kick to the head. It was a believable, if slightly sudden, finish.

The evening's penultimate bout saw Matt Hardy defeat Kevin Steen. Before the match started Corino cut a cheap heat promo and provided an introduction for Matt Hardy. Not to be outdone Steen performed some mic work of his own, requesting that matchmaker Nigel McGuinness add a no disqualification stipulation. McGuinness complied, which allowed 'Mr Wrestling' to once again draw inspiration from the Attitude Era in a wild brawl that went all over ringside and saw various objects, including a crutch, a trash can, and a ladder, incorporated into the madness.

Naturally SCUM intervened. Titus and Jacobs were first out, saving Hardy a trip through a table. Titus got a Package piledriver for his troubles while Jacobs got an apron bomb. Hardy eventually gained the advantage after Compton hit Steen with a chair.

Steen came back with a Codebreaker variant and an F5, which 'The Wrestling Jesus' kicked out of. Hardy hit a low blow and one of the match's many side effects on to the ladder for a two count of his own. Hardy finally secured the win when he gave Steen a Twist of Fate through some chairs.

Corino announced the victory as part of another attempt to convince people he can do the overblown announcer shtick (which he can't). SCUM continued to beat up Steen as referees came to the ring and the bell was rung (because heels always stop beatdowns when bells are rung). Eventually they just wandered off. Nobody made the save. Presumably this was designed to illustrate that Steen is still an unpopular member of the roster.

It was not a good night for Kevin Steen

In what has to be considered one of Ring of Honor's worst ever production choices Papa Briscoe was interviewed before the main event. He said the word family around a dozen times. It was awful. He'd clearly enjoyed a drink or six throughout the course of the evening.

I really wasn't into the Briscoe v Briscoe match. Neither was the crowd. They came alive at certain points but they were quiet for a lot of the exchanges. I think a large part of the problem was the lack of a storyline feud. Matt Hardy would have been a far more sensible choice of challenger, especially when you consider he faced Jay the following evening.

The pair went overboard when it came to the finish. Mark kicked out of a Jay Driller so Jay lariated him and hit a second. That also got two. Jay hit a series of superkicks (during which audience members were shown for some reason) and then hit a third Jay Driller for the win. The audience livened up during points of this bit for the most part they didn't seem to care. Frankly, it was not the greatest of matches.

The following evening's TV tapings saw Jay retain the championship against Hardy. Reading that on Monday morning was a big surprise. If you've read anything I've written about ROH over the last few months you'll be aware that I was convinced Hardy would have the belt by late June in order to setup a future clash with Kevin Steen. Not only is that not happening but it appears the SCUM stable as we knew it is over: the faction lost a stipulation match at the tapings which means they must disband.

So, where next for ROH? In a way the move away from iPPVs will benefit them. They now have a greater degree of freedom when it comes to pacing their stories. Without the need to ensure bigger matches are reserved for pay-per-views any card can now be turned into a "supershow". Obviously venue size and the town the show’s being held in will still need to be taken into consideration to an extent but with every show now potentially becoming a VOD ROH can do more with some of their smaller shows.

Storyline-wise I think a union between Adam Cole and Steve Corino seems like a safe bet. I don't think Matt Hardy's going anywhere either. He nicked Jay's belt at the TV taping, which indicates he's going to get a second shot at the title. If he doesn't win it I think Adam Cole will. I can't imagine (nor do I want to) a world in which Jay Briscoe is the ROH champion until the end of this year.

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