Over the years, Ring of Honor has failed more times than it’s seceded when speaking to my preference of professional wrestling. Last night, that wasn’t an issue as Best in the World’ 14 exceeded my expectations by relating to the fan inside who watches wrestling for the actual wrestling. While there were some missteps along the way, the passion that ROH prides itself on was on full display as wrestlers worked incredibly hard to put on a show that people will remember.
The six man mayhem match was a good way to start the show. There was no story told at all. It was a fireworks show. ACH dazzled like he has since his debut and made a good impression on a platform designed to get him over as the next challenger for the TV title. Speaking of the title, Jay Lethal’s defense against Matt Taven was a good effort and Taven’s consistent pursuit of Truth Martini conveyed his thirst for revenge over championship glory. However, Seleyzia being allowed at ringside, without restraint, watered-down the premise of Martini being handcuffed which was the selling point of the match.
Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander gave us a different type of submission match. Both traded high impact move after high impact move while sneaking in a submission here and there. The holy #%$& turning point came when Roderick back dropped Cedric on the ring apron, hurting his back, thus establishing the target. The finish came off ridiculously well when Cedric hit Roderick with a backbreaker across the top turnbuckle and finished him off with Strong’s own Strong Hold submission. Strong tapping out immediately and not fighting it put over how much pain he was in while elevating Cedric even more in the process.
The Briscoe Brothers vs. Matt Hardy and Michael Bennett was INSANE and came off as two separate matches, before and, after the DQ. I bought the original DQ finish because the restart by ROH matchmaker Nigel McGuiness wasn’t telegraphed, unlike the millions of times you see it coming from a mile away on WWE shows. The violence factor increased with tables and ladders which the fans in attendance were eating up. Bennett took a crazy bump when he received the Doomsday Device outside the ring. I had to catch my breath when the match was over and it made me wonder how the remaining matches were going to follow this onslaught of carnage.
In what was the sore spot on the show, Larry Mercer and Mandy Leon introduce the latest ROH signee, Moose, a former NFL player. Kevin Kelly and Steve Cornio hyped the announcement prior to the camera panning to the charismatically impaired gentlemen they showed. I assumed they signed one of the wrestlers recently released by WWE. Veda Scott was the only good thing about that segment and saved it from being a total train wreck.
Kevin Steen vs. Silas Young had the unenviable task of following the tag team match and both men worked extremely hard to keep the audience. However, Steen is their guy so they were cheering him more than the match itself. Steen got the win with a few dates left on his ROH contract and Young’s post-match sneak attack means the feud continues. This match made be a believer in Silas Young and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The co-main event featured a battle for the tag team titles proving that you can sell a match only on reputation. Daniels and Kazarian were the top team in TNA while Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly are ROH’s crème de la crème. Individually, all four men have a status of being phenomenal workers and together, they created poetry in Nashville. I’m glad reDRagon went over because they needed the win more and it will serve them well going forward.
An unfortunate curse of being smartened up to the business is that I watch wrestling through an analytical lens as opposed to just enjoying the show. Who in the hell thought it was a good idea for Michael Elgin to shake Adam Cole’s hand before the match? Cole put his wife in a figure four leg lock. There isn’t a man on the planet who would adhere to the code of honor under those circumstances. Besides that gaping plot hole, Elgin’s title win over Adam Cole was perfectly done. I can’t remember the last time a match legitimately had me on the edge of my seat for every near fall. The finish was simple and brilliant at the same time with Elgin catching Cole and triple powerbombing the hell out of him to score the 1-2-3.
I had a blast watching this show. Steve Cornio and Kevin Kelly’s commentary made it feel like I was watching a sport and it was refreshing to have zero authority figure drama. There are also some things ROH needs to address moving forward. First, they need to get a lighting rig because that bright glare will get old fast. Also, while action packed wrestling is what Ring of Honor brings to the table, they need to adjust their booking if they want to keep their seat. More angles with a little more focus on character development instead of the consistent video package/ match rotation. If they can do this without compromising their identity, their product will appeal to a broader audience. Overall, this was a success because it did what every wrestling event should do. It left me wanting more.