Saturday, August 19, 2017

Random Match Review: 8/19/17

GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KENTA [c] vs. Low Ki – ROH Final Battle 12/17/05; Inman Sports Club

Before being known to a wider audience as Hideo Itami, he was KENTA. This would mark the ROH debut for the NOAH star, as he defended his GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title against Low Ki. If you wanted to know how big a deal this way, just note that this was the main event. Yes, ROH’s biggest show of the year was headlined by a debuting Jr. Heavyweight. I absolutely loved the ROH/NOAH partnership. It was about 10,000x better than their NJPW partnership.

The ROH faithful rightfully treated this like a big match. Both men came in confident that their striking ability was better than the other. For example, even after Ki brutalized KENTA with some kicks, the champ retaliated by cockily kicking him in the back of the head, shrugging it off. Their first strike exchange was brief but violent. Almost as if it was put there purely to tease the audience. Each kick sounded more painful than the last. There was a feeling that these were two very evenly matched wrestlers. Despite that, it was Ki who took control, wearing down KENTA and focusing on the back. I say wear down, but it wasn’t anything dull like you get in some other matches.

KENTA began his comeback, fueled by kicks and high impact offense. When he couldn’t put Ki away for good, that set up a finishing stretch of wild stuff. Ki hit the Warrior’s Way and busted out the Kobashi chops, while KENTA delivered a super falcon arrow (HE DID THE SUPER DEAL). They went to exchange some of the hardest slaps you’ll ever see in a ring. It reached a point where KENTA knocked Ki down with one and the fans bought it as a finish. A highlight came when KENTA had the Busaiku Knee countered into a Ki Krusher, which was insanely awesome. In the end, KENTA hit the first Go to Sleep in ROH history, which Ki sold like death. He followed with the Busaiku Knee to retain in 25:02.

An incredible encounter. KENTA had the best in-ring debut for a company I can think of, at least until Shinsuke Nakamura showed up in NXT in 2016. Low Ki was the perfect opponent for this, as their styles were similar and played right into KENTA’s strengths, introducing him as well as anyone could have. The crowd was hot for everything. Nothing against them, but I do feel this might’ve been even better in a place like the Manhattan Center. Anyway, they beat the hell out of each other and raised the bar until a great finish. [****½]

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NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III Predictions

Like a lot of recent TakeOvers, this has some matches without great build but filled with top tier talent. This is one of them. Johnny Gargano and Andrade Almas are my two favorite wrestlers in NXT. By a fairly wide margin. This is my pick for the show stealer. Almas winning makes more sense. Gargano's the kind of babyface who can afford it (especially if Tommaso Ciampa makes an appearance) and Almas needs it. He's lost too often and with Vega keeping him focused, he should win.

Winner: Andrade Almas

I know they seem to love Aleister Black, but this not being Hideo Itami vs. Kassius Ohno is strange to me. That's exactly where it was building to. I think this one is quite obvious. Black is headed for big things, while it doesn't seem like Itami is on the same path. I'm pretty sure this is the end of Itami's NXT run. He's been there for a while and it's kind of NXT Title or bust for him at this point. He's not winning the title, so I say he loses here and gets called up in the next Superstar Shakeup, where he'll unfortunately not do a lot most likely. I say this as someone who loves Itami.

Winner: Aleister Black

People aren't talking about it enough, but the Authors of Pain have been one of the best tag teams in the world this year. The only teams I'd put ahead of them in terms of performance would be The South Pacific Power Trip and British Strong Style. #DIY and the Revival were great too, but haven't done a ton this year. Anyway, this matchup with SAnitY should be a chaotic brawl, with suits both teams. SAnitY is a lot of fun, but I can't see them as the guys to dethrone AOP and hand them their first loss.

Winners: The Authors of Pain

After TakeOver: Orlando, I felt this was a foregone conclusion. Ember Moon lost because Asuka resorted to a cheap trick. I fully assumed Ember would be the one to finally take the title from Asuka. Part of me feels like it could go the other way, though. With women like Kairi Shane and Shayna Baszler on the way, I could see them not wanting to miss out on the chance to book something big like that. Still, I'm going with my gut and picking Ember to pull it off.

Winner: Ember Moon

I just cannot get interested in this. There's no reason for me to want to see Drew McIntyre win anything expect for his name value. Like Black/Itami, this doesn't make as much sense as Roode's feud with Roderick Strong is much more interesting. There's a reason for even the casual viewer to root for Roddy. The personal issues are easy to relate to. Anyway, Drew and Roode feels like something put together simply because of name value. I'm thinking Roode retains. Drew will come close, though.

Winner: Bobby Roode