Friday, February 23, 2018

NJPW/ROH Honor Rising Night One Review

NJPW/ROH Honor Rising Night One
February 23rd, 2018 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,700

Honor Rising has become an annual tradition over the past few years. With ROH’s roster growing considerably weaker over the past two years, the cards have waned in terms of interest. Still, there’s a major Bullet Club angle going on that gives some intrigue to these events.

Kevin Kelly and Don Callis were on commentary.

Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Katsuya Kitamura and Toa Henare
Boy. Is ROH’s roster so bad and thin that they couldn’t even fill out the card? This is an all-NJPW match and really hammers home the thinness of the ROH roster. Kitamura was the highlight here, using his power like a beast. Watching him match up and even toss around Bad Luck Fale was quite the sight. That rarely happens. He took most of the heat, before the more established Henare got some shine. Kitamura got left alone with Fale in the end. Though he was strong enough to work him over at points, Fale hit a lariat and the Grenade for the win in 7:20. Decent opener, highlighted by Kitamura. Without him and his interactions with Fale, this would’ve been rough. [**¼]

Cheeseburger, Delirious, and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. HIKULEO and The Guerrillas of Destiny
The babyface team has a NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title shot on night two, so this is exactly the same match, except HIKULEO will be Fale. HIKUELO is an interesting booking case. He must lose like all the other young lions, but he’s so big, it takes a lot. Delirious pulled his usual antics, Liger was Liger, and Cheeseburger was loved by the crowd. Haku’s kids work fine together, but it’s nothing to write home about. After a barrage of offense on HIKULEO, Cheeseburger used Shotei to beat him in 7:08. Perfectly acceptable multi-man match and nothing more. [**]

David Finlay and Juice Robinson vs. The Young Bucks
Commentary brought up the Bucks possibly moving to the heavyweight division. Ah, so it’s time for that annual rumor. I really dig the Juice/Finlay pairing. If they’re not going to push Juice towards a singles title, I’d give them a push as a team. Juice/Finlay vs. EVIL/SANADA sounds rad. The Bucks have been less grating than usual this year and their string of good matches continued here. This played like a greatest hits of sorts for them, as they got in their usual stuff. The key here was the chemistry between Finlay and Juice, who looked great. The Bucks won via Meltzer Driver in 12:51. This was a good match. With more time and an angle, it could’ve been better. [***]

Flip Gordon vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA
From the few ROH fans I still know of, I’ve heard good things about Flip Gordon. I don’t get it. He showed off his athleticism and got a lot of shine in this match, but what made it work was the interactions between KUSHIDA and Hiromu. Those guys are EASILY the best two junior heavyweights in the world and they proved it again here. Every moment between them was worth checking out and Flip felt more like a distraction or hindrance. Of course, he went on to win with a 450 splash in 12:48, most likely to set him up for some sort of BOTSJ run later this year. He’s a fine flippy guy, there’s just nothing special about him. [***¼]

Best Friends and IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Jay White vs. ROH World Champion Dalton Castle, Jay Lethal, and Ryusuke Taguchi
On a show with almost no LIDJ, no Kazuchika Okada, no Hiroshi Tanahashi, etc., the ROH World Champion is a midcarder. Yikes. Anyway, this was a preview of the Beretta/Castle ROH Title match tomorrow. Without his Boys, Castle was a bit less animated than usual. Taguchi was up to some of his fun tricks. Lethal really seems like he’s going through the motions for the past few years. Chuckie and Beretta were fun together. They’re not my favorite team, but anything is a positive addition to this tag division at this point. Interestingly, White was the focus and not tomorrow’s ROH title match. He puts away Taguchi with Blade Runner in 9:46 for the win. A solid little tag match, continuing the trend of White getting more comfortable in his role. [**½]

NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto [c] vs. The Beer City Bruiser
When Goto got booked against Punishment Martinez at last year’s Honor Rising, it felt like a low bar. They lowered it this year. Not that Bruiser is bad, he’s just very uninteresting. He surprisingly controlled most of this match, with Goto having to fight from behind. His selling leaves a little to be desired, so it’s a not role Goto’s great at. Anyway, though he took most of the offense, Goto made the expected rally. He won with GTR in 12:38. The amount of offense that Bruiser got in was surprising, but not a bad idea. [**¾]

Chase Owens, Kenny Omega, and Kota Ibushi vs. Cody, Hangman Page, and Marty Scurll
It looks like Owens has decided to side with Omega on this Bullet Club beef. Korakuen Hall lost their minds for the Golden Lovers. Cody spat on a fan’s sign supporting them. The action in this main event was very good, with some great moments of storytelling. There was Cody and Page being complete jerks, while Marty was still not sure how to handle things. He wrestled Omega because he had to, but mostly avoided anything like taunting him. For example, Cody and Page mocked Omega’s Terminator spot, but Scurll didn’t get involved. The match kicked into another gear when Ibushi and Omega got to work together, which was a blast. We also finally got to see Cody interact with Omega, previewing their Mania weekend match. It came down to Page and Owens, with the Rite of Passage ending Owens in 20:31. This was the best thing on the show and it delivered in terms of furthering the story, giving us just enough Golden Lovers, giving Page a win since he has a US Title shot in the near future, and being fun. [***½]

Overall: 5.5/10. Not a bad show, only slightly above average. The main event is the highlight, while the tree-way juniors match was fun because of KUSHIDA and Hiromu. The rest of the show features middle of the pack matches. It helps that this was only 2.5 hours, as too many shows go too long these days.