Ring of Honor's anniversary shows fall t an awkward time for the company. They come just two months after Final Battle, generally the company's biggest card of the year, and around a month before WrestleMania weekend, at which ROH always has a presence (usually with a show called Supercard of Honor). It makes the pacing of storylines difficult and can result in a show which is more about bridging the gap between the bigger shows on either side of it and not giving too much away.
To an extent that happened this year. The four-way main event was a way to put on a significant card-topper while also holding more impactful singles confrontations in reserve for Supercard of Honor IX and beyond. Meanwhile the ACH versus AJ Styles match was a big match but not something that was likely to draw many viewers if used elsewhere and the Bucks versus reDRagon outing was the latest in a lengthy series. The only big match on offer that could have been saved was Lethal versus El Patron, but then whenever the former WWE champion debuted it was going to be of significance.
All told Ring of Honor put forth a good effort with this anniversary show. They struck the right balance between conservation and making it appealing in its own right.
The show kicked off with a Las Vegas-themed intro video (because it was being held in Las Vegas). It was a theme that continued throughout the evening and made a nice change of pace. In the arena Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino (now going under the name King Corino because why not?) talked up the evening's top three championship matches before introducing the new Spanish announce team. This addition would later be attributed to the signing of El Patron. I can believe that's true.
Cedric Alexander v Matt Sydal made a cracking opener. The two men had a lightning quick bout that gave the crowd a chance to blow off steam and kicked the broadcast off with a bang. Sydal got the win after Alexander went for a kick in the corner only to hit the ropes awkwardly, landing in position for a match-winning Shooting Star press (a botch due to unfamiliar ropes, but everyone involved styled it out well). Alexander shook hands after the match but looked like he was on the verge of a breakdown.
Match two saw Mark Briscoe take on Moose, the culmination of a feud that had begun with an errant spear from Moose to Briscoe. While the opener had lasted around fifteen minutes this match was significantly shorter, long matches not really being Moose's thing. 'The Offensive Line' muscled Briscoe around the ring, cutting off a lot of his offence with power moves and efficient ring placement before Briscoe mounted a comeback with a Blockbuster off the apron and a Cactus Jack elbow. It wasn't enough to win. Moose quickly regained control and floored Mark with a wild spear to win.
After the match Veda Scott slapped Moose's hand away from a handshake. He looked unimpressed with her but didn't push the issue. As they left Veda shouted that Briscoe was a loser.
That was followed by a three-way tag team match. The Addiction faced the Kingdom team of Matt Taven and Michael Bennett and Bullet Club representative Karl Anderson. 'The Machine Gun' was going it alone after Doc Gallows' plane had been grounded due to severe weather. The match had a steady first half and picked up a great deal for the home stretch. Taven and Bennett hit a double spike piledriver on Anderson for the victory after a Yuranage suplex and a Stun Gun to had eliminated Kazarian and Daniels respectively.
The BJ Whitmer and Roderick Strong grudge match followed that. They'd been teammates in The Decade and initially fell out over their differing views on the group's young boy Adam Page. It's developed further since then, with Whitmer feeling that Strong's selfish and desperate to protect his spot and Strong feeling Whitmer's jealous of his success and ability. It was a good story making good use of the history the two men have in ROH. It was a stiff affair. Strong won after a disrespectful "kiss of death" from BJ fired him up and he hit a pair of high knees, an elbow strike and the lumbar check.
Match five saw Maria Kanellis defend the title of love, formerly Jay Briscoe's real world title, against ODB. For the record that now stands for One Dirty Briscoe, which is pretty clever (by wrestling standards). The pre-match video featured some great verbal work from Kanellis. WWE missed a trick not rehiring her when they had the chance. She and Bennett could have been great in NXT.
Before the match Maria announced that she was unable to wrestle because she was pregnant. But that was a swerve! Bennett ran in through the crowd and super kicked Mark Briscoe, who'd accompanied ODB to ringside, as Maria hit ODB with the title belt. ODB kicked out, Briscoe evened the odds with Bennett, and then ODB clobbered Maria around ringside. Following a few minutes of that Maria floored ODB with a super kick then held her for Bennett to do the same. That backfired when ODB ducked out of the way, leaving Maria to take the move from her husband.
Briscoe fought with Bennett as Maria surprised everyone by kicking out. Presumably determined to prove she warranted a spot on the show Maria took a military press into the lads at ringside and then took part in providing a human crash mat as ODB leapt off the top rope. After giving Bennett a Doomsday Device with Briscoe's help ODB returned to ring to pin Maria with her Bam finisher. She and Briscoe then posed with the real world title (the pink love cover having been yanked off) before heading backstage.
ACH and AJ Styles had a very good match after that, as was easily predicted, was essentially a procession through well thought out high spots. The first was an early attempt at the Styles Clash, 'The Phenomenal One' flipping himself out of a jackknife pin and into the move with smooth precision. ACH fired back with a crisp tornado DDT and a running phoenix tope straight out of the early playbook of Styles himself.
When that didn't get him the victory ACH unleashed his latest move, a fisherman buster variant called the Big Bang Attack. Styles kicked out but ACH stayed on him with a modified enziguri-cum-Pele kick as 'The Phenomenal One' clambered to the top rope. Styles avoided a 450 and applied the Calf Killer. ACH turned it into a pin but Styles slipped out to hit a Bloody Sunday and the Styles Clash for the victory. ACH was allowed to look competitive before taking the loss and Styles added to the list of solid outings his had since cutting himself loose from TNA.
reDRagon versus the Young Bucks was another predictably great match. Again it was essentially a procession of high spots with little story to link them together, but the Bucks and reDRagon are more proficient at this type of match than ACH. In some ways they're better at it than Styles.
Highlights included: a gut buster followed by a neck breaker on Fish; a top rope moonsault to the outside from Matt to Fish; O'Reilly applying an armbar to Matt while hanging in the ropes, with Nick leaping over them to wipe out Fish and then unleashing a super kick to break the hold; another super kick from Nick to O'Reilly as Matt tried to sunset bomb him to the outside, allowing him to throw O'Reilly into Fish; the ever over buckle bomb-enziguri combo; a springboard splash turned into an armbar on Nick by O'Reilly, broken up by a top rope elbow from Matt; and an Indy-taker on the floor to O'Reilly.
The finishing sequence was the best of the evening. The Bucks hit Chasing the Dragon on Fish after wiping out O'Reilly with the Indy-taker. Fish kicked out the crowd erupted in boos. Nick and Matt hit More Bang for Your Buck on Fish, only for Shayna Baszler (a UFC fighter who'd accompanied reDRagon to the ring) to pull Todd Sinclair from the ring. The Bucks left the ring and stalked stalked her around ringside, allowing O'Reilly to hit them both with a knee from the apron. He grabbed Nick and took him back into the ring to give him a tornado DDT. Fish followed that with a top rope falcon arrow.
The pair then hit Chasing the Dragon but Matt pulled Sinclair from the ring to save the match for himself and his brother. He headed back into the ring and cleaned house with super kicks and crotch chops before reDRagon hit him with the elevated DDT into a German suplex. As Matt writhed outside the ring Nick was left vulnerable for a second Chasing the Dragon for a successful reDRagon defence.
Jay Lethal's TV title defence against Alberto El Patron took the semi-main event spot. They started off quick, El Patron super kicking J Diesel off the apron and diving onto Lethal at ringside then throwing him into crowd barriers. Back in the ring Lethal took control by crotching Alberto on the top rope before unleashing a slew of cheap shots and a superplex.
The Knights of the Rising Dawn (who had briefly appeared during the tag title match) showed back up as Alberto hit a reverse suplex from the second rope. Lethal fell to clotheslines and a backstabber and signalled for the cross armbreaker but Lethal beat him to it. El Patron worked his way out of his own signature hold and rolled to the outside. Lethal stayed on him with a trio of suicide dives. The last sent El Patron tumbling over the crowd barricade (Corino was quick to point out that the lad he landed on was particularly hefty). When he rolled back into the ring at sixteen he was met with stomps by Lethal. The champ's attempt at a superplex backfired when the challenger pushed him down into a tree of woe position and double stomped him for a two count.
Lethal blocked a super kick and the pair exchanged punches. Alberto received a Lethal Combination but kicked out. Lethal headed to the top rope to attempt his Hail to the King elbow drop but got caught and crotched. Alberto fought off interference from Truth Martini and trapped him in the cross armbreaker. Lethal came off the top with the elbow but El Patron release Martini and reapplied the hold on Lethal as he landed.
Martini distracted the referee as Lethal lamped Alberto with The Book of Truth. 'The Greatest First Generation Wrestler' was stunned at the kick out but kept it together enough to catch a super kick attempt and wobble the challenger with a bicycle kick. He went for the Lethal Injection but his arm was too hurt from the cross armbreaker to support his weight, allowing El Patron up roll him up with an Okana roll for two. Lethal's kick out sent 'Mexico's Greatest Export' flying forward into a shot from The Book of Truth. He turned back around into the Lethal Injection, which was enough to put him down for a three count. The match was very good. It got over Lethal's win-at-any-costs character, kept Alberto strong and showed why he was such a good addition to the roster.
The main event was preceded by the appearance of two former ROH world champions. Nigel McGuinness joined the commentary team and Samoa Joe made a "surprise" appearance. I say surprise but it had already been announced he was returning and it had seemed a fair assumption he'd make an unannounced appearance on the anniversary card. Joe cut a pro-Ring of Honor promo and announced his intention to regain the world championship.
The main event was a four-way match for the ROH world championship. Champion Jay Briscoe was attacked at the bell by all three challengers, Hanson, Tommaso Ciampa and Michael Elgin. That wasn't enough to faze him, he was outside the ring within minutes setting up a table.
The first half of the match was standard multi-man fare. Everyone got a turning working with everyone else and a handful of standard spots were cycled through. The highlight was an all too brief exchange between Briscoe and Elgin. I understand why ROH didn't want to do a singles match between them here and the addition of Hanson and Ciampa made a nice change, but they could have done something interesting one-on-one.
The final stretch verged on overbooking (by Ring of Honor standards) but was still enjoyable. Todd Sinclair took a bump as he headed back into the ring and was sent sprawling to the floor. Hanson ignored this and hit a a Rikishi driver on Briscoe, making a cover in excess of the required three but not having a referee to count for him. As he got up he was attacked by the KRD. Their beating of Hanson, Ciampa and Briscoe got them a distinct lack of heat. The return of Raymond Rowe did better. He chased them off through the crowd and the match continued with Elgin giving Briscoe a Jay Driller through the table that had been set up at the start of the match.
There was no referee to count the fall but it was a natural falsie anyway: nobody would fall to such a move in a pay-per-view main event. Elgin grabbed a chair and prepared to cave in Briscoe's skull with it. Nigel McGuinness got into the ring to stop him. Being a mad ol' heel Elgers went to power bomb the matchmaker. Ciampa made the save, had a bit of a stare off with McGuinnes, and then cracked Elgin with a chair as he leant out of the ring shouting. He went for a cover of his own but the match again continued because there was no healthy ref.
Ciampa hit a power bomb on Elgin. Briscoe broke that up. Ciampa retaliated with Project Ciampa on Briscoe, who kicked out at two. Elgin power bombed Ciampa again. Briscoe broke the cover and rolled Elgin up for a two count. Hanson returned to the fray and wiped out Briscoe with a spin kick. Briscoe landed on Ciampa and got the pinfall win as Elgin pulled Hanson out of the ring.
Elgin freaked out at his own stupidity and misfortune (had he not pulled Hanson from the ring he'd have been free to make the save and the match would have continued) then headed up the aisle. There he came face-to-face with Samoa Joe. They shared a brief moment of tension before Joe continued to the ring to hand Briscoe the world championship. The show went off the air with the longest reigning champion ever and the current two time champion staring each other down in the ring. It was all very macho.
Results summary:Matt Sydal defeated Cedric Alexander
Moose defeated Mark Briscoe
The Kingdom defeated The Addiction and Karl Anderson
Roderick Strong defeated BJ Whitmer
ODB defeated Maria Kanellis
AJ Styles defeated ACH
reDRagon defeated the Young Bucks to retain the tag team championship
Jay Lethal defeated Alberto El Patron to retain the television championship
Jay Briscoe defeated Hanson, Tommaso Ciampa and Michael Elgin to retain the ROH world championship