When I started writing this article…after going through a 3-day marathon of pro wrestling…my plan was to give a breakdown of the major events from the weekend: NXT Takeover NY, ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard and, of course, WrestleMania 35. But as I started going through the matches on each card, something became very clear. I can’t compare these events. Because one of them was so underwhelming…so infuriating…and so confusing…that it warrants its own article. That event is the G1 Supercard.
You could not have told me six months ago that when this weekend finally came, the G1 Supercard would be the event that disappointed me the most. Ring of Honor had everything working in their favor. They were putting on a massive show the day before WrestleMania, in one of the most historic sporting venues in the country: Madison Square Garden. A place that garners an almost religious reverence. And a place that hasn’t had a non-WWE wrestling event since the Eisenhower administration. This was historic. And on top of that, they had the star-power of New Japan Pro Wrestling. WWE was, for the first time, a little scared of being upstaged. Well, it turns out they didn’t have anything to worry about.
I hate being negative about pro wrestling, but some of these things need to be said. And yes, it was a co-branded show, but I’m going to show you how almost everything was Ring of Honor’s fault. ROH, you screwed the pooch in a big way. And I’m not sure how you plan to recover.
Problem 1: Production Value
I don’t expect ROH or NJPW to have the glitz and glamour of WWE products. WWE is sports entertainment, where showmanship is more important than literally anything else. ROH and NJPW like to present themselves as real sports, so things are a bit toned down. But what I saw on Saturday was lazy and just plain bad. The cameras were virtually never in the right place. They either gave you the angle that made it obvious that the moves were fake, or they didn’t show you the wrestlers at all.
I don’t know who to blame for this, but it looked like amateur hour out there. Every single match had at least one major spot that was completely missed by the cameramen. There’s nothing quite like consistently hearing the commentary refer to something major happening in the ring while the camera is focused on the audience or the tables near the ring, then it flashes back to the ring where you see the wrestler laid out. You know SOMETHING happened, but you didn’t see it. And there definitely will not be a replay! And don’t forget the backstage segments that didn’t play. Poor Kevin Kelly, having to repeatedly say “If we could get the cameras back on the action!”.
Now let’s talk about the commentary. Kevin Kelly delivered gold, as always. If Mauro Ranallo is wrestling’s Gus Johnson, Kevin Kelly is the late, great Craig Sager. Always delivers. Then we have Ian Riccaboni. Unnecessary. Colt Cabana. Unnecessary. Chris Charlton. Lovely to have, but really only for the NJPW matches as his talent is wasted anywhere else. Caprice Coleman. Why? Most wrestling promotions can’t do a three-man booth properly, but a revolving door of four commentators? It was just clunky and irritating. Kelly did his best and Riccaboni was serviceable, but once you have more than a play-by-play guy and a color commentator, it becomes a contest for everyone to “get a word in,” and it’s a mess. That’s what this was. A total mess.
Problem 2: Booking
Let’s start with this: Delirious is a terrible booker. I’ll get more into that later, but the people over at Sinclair Broadcasting need to care enough about the product to realize how bad of a booker he is. When you look at the NJPW side of the card, all of the matches were serviceable. I won’t go as far as some to say they were spectacular; Naito and Ibushi would have put on a good match on any continent and Okada vs. White, while good, was a repeat. But they were watchable and made sense. Even with limited resources storyline wise, Gedo is a good booker. Delirious, on the other hand, booked this show…again, the show at Madison Square FREAKING Garden…like he was stuck in Career Mode Purgatory on WWE 2K (Note: Is this my PITAthon game??)
The Honor Rumble had it’s problems, but still ended with an epic face-off between two legends of the pro wrestling industry: Jyushin “Thunder” Liger and The Great Muta. The fandom got to bask in that glory for about 90 seconds before Kenny King, who had been hiding under the ring, eliminated them both. GOD, I hate the “hiding under the ring” spot, and this was the worst time to do it.
Fan favorite, former ROH World Champion, and overall gift to mankind Dalton Castle had an amazing entrance. Then he lost to Rush in less than 1 minute. Then he turned heel. Unless Dalton was injured, there is no reason in the world that a fan-loved former champion needs to be in a squash match at the biggest event of the year. It’s embarrassing to him, it’s embarrassing to Rush, and it’s completely disrespectful to everything he’s done for ROH.
The Mayu Iwutani/Kelly Klein match for the Women’s Championship should not have happened. ROH has been doing this match all year and it’s always lackluster and clunky because these two women do not know how to mesh their contrasting styles. That’s not a knock on either wrestler, things like that happen all the time. But if you know they have no ring chemistry, you give the champion a match with someone she DOES have chemistry with! I know you want to get the belt on Klein, but save it for Lowell, Mass! Not Madison Square FREAKING Garden! I can’t believe ROH, on a weekend that included a triple-threat match between Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, had the nerve to put this match on.
The Tag Team match was actually great, despite the fact that The Briscoes were in it (More on that later). Then, the match ends and who shows up? Enzo and Cass! They’re picking a fight with The Briscoes near the guard rail! Are they invading? Is this a shoot? How unexpected and exciting! Yeah…not even. Totally and horribly planned. What went wrong, you ask?
Guerillas of Destiny won the match, but Enzo and Cass attacked The Briscoes. They want to attack…the guys that LOST?
It completely took the focus away from the winners of the match. I’m sure Delirious thought that this would be a cool way to set up a future feud for the ROH World Tag Team titles…yeah…the titles that are NOT ON CAMERA because you decided to set up a fake invasion.
The commentary team and camera operators either didn’t know this was going to happen or hated the idea as much as we did. There are no clear shots, long segments of silence and a lot of confused looking wrestlers, announcers, refs and fans. No one knew how to react to this except to boo Enzo and Cass, which honestly is a safe bet no matter where you see them.
Congrats, ROH. You chose to overshadow your own Tag Team titles and the team that won them…arguably one of the best tag teams working today…because you wanted to stage a fight with one of the (not arguably) WORST tag teams working* today.
*I’m defining ‘working’ very loosely.
Problem 3: Making the future look bleak
The Honor Rumble was plenty of proof that Delirious and ROH officials have little to nothing in store for the future. NJPW stars like Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii got massive pops from the audience when they came to the ring, while ROH mainstays like T.K. O’Ryan and Coast 2 Coast got little to no reaction whatsoever. Some will say that it’s because it was mostly a New Japan crowd, but what does that say when the American company needs the Japanese company to sell tickets in America? That alone proves that ROH needs NJPW to stay relevant, not the other way around. Yoshi-Hashi got cheered. Yoshi. Freaking. Hashi.
They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they only know how to “strike when the iron is cooling off.” They’re obviously not pleased with Dalton Castles title run last year, but they’re forgetting that he was supposed to win the title two years earlier, not after he’s in a downswing and injured. Same with Matt Taven. I’m glad he finally got the title, but The Kingdom has cooled off significantly in the last 18 months, especially with The Elite and SCU signing with AEW.
And could it be more obvious that ROH lived and died by The Elite? Losing The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes and Hangman Page has crippled this organization, as all of their booking decisions relied on them. NJPW is definitely feeling the loss of Kenny Omega, but they have plenty of stars. ROH is stuck with the same people they had a decade ago. They haven’t built anyone new, and the few people they sign leave pretty quickly. And no, the part-timers don’t count. Juice Robinson, Rush, and Bandido don’t work for ROH directly and they’re probably never going to.
I cannot say enough about how garbage the Tag Team division is in ROH. The Briscoes are what’s wrong with wrestling. They’re rednecks who are openly racist and homophobic, but they talk like they’re auditioning for a Three 6 Mafia music video. Over the years, their “gimmick’ has included threats to kill gay people, wearing Confederate flags to the ring (which were then put on their merchandise and sold by ROH) and reaching into the audience to snatch pride flags away from fans. I don’t care if it’s your gimmick (and by the way, I don’t buy the “it’s my character” excuse for one second!), it’s disgusting.
But they are the spotlight of the ROH Tag Team division because they’ve been there forever and they can work and because there is literally no one else. Can you name another team that fans want to see? The Hardys are gone. So are the Young Bucks and SCU. MCMG has retired. Who’s left? Coast 2 Coast? Morbid Obesity…I mean, The Bouncers?
So what does ROH do? Hire a tag team that was fired by WWE for, among other things, shoddy work and accusations of rape and promoting white supremacy. They’ll fit right in.
WrestleMania and NXT Takeover were both very enjoyable, which I haven’t said truthfully in several years. But for many reasons, Ring of Honor has disappointed their fans in a huge way. The G1 Supercard had an effect on me that I didn’t even think possible: I am no longer watching Ring of Honor television. I am no longer going to attend their shows. To go through the trouble of booking a show at a place as historic and important as Madison Square Garden, then deliver the card they delivered, shows me that they only care about the headlines and not about the actual product. Employing The Briscoes and Enzo and Cass tells me that they have no integrity as a promotion. My hope is that NJPW will either end their relationship with ROH, or ROH will come to its senses and make the changes they need to make in a wrestling landscape where Impact Wrestling, MLW and AEW are all in good positions to put them out of business. (Wrestling fans: When’s the last time you heard “Impact Wrestling” and “Good” in the same sentence?)
What I know is that, unless something major changes, when I’m in Florida next year for WrestleMania 36, I’m skipping anything related to ROH.