Ever since its inception nearly 15 years ago right here in Philadelphia, Ring of Honor has had a peerless reputation as an absolutely no nonsense promotion where wrestling skill and athleticism are valued above all else, free from the shackles of the cartoonish gimmicks, interminable promos, and constant interference from non-wrestlers that plague the big two federations, making their product nearly unwatchable.
ROH’s 2014 partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling brought their presentation to an even higher echelon, joining their incredibly strong existing roster with strong style living legends like Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and current NXT hero Shinsuke Nakamura.
Speaking of NXT, WWE has come close to the spirit of ROH with their developmental fed, focusing on in-ring talent above all else, though they constantly step on their own toes by feeding their NXT stars into their main roster and then failing to support them properly on the grander stage, a shortcoming ROH’s link to NJPW doesn’t fall prey to, having talents transfer back and forth in a way that allows feuds and storylines to play out as organically as possible, something WWE might do well to pay attention to.
Just as NXT does, ROH tapes a month’s worth of hour long TV episodes during one live event, one of which we were lucky enough to attend on Sunday night at South Philly’s historic 2300 Arena, birthplace of both ROH and of course, ECW. We won’t spoil any of the results here, but we’d be happy to tell you just how awesome ROH was to experience in person.
Newly minted ROH World Champ Kyle O’Reilly led the charge with an impassioned victory speech after his big win at Final Battle the previous Friday, with, of course, the man he secured the title from, Adam Cole, charismatic “peacock” Dalton Castle and even his own reDRagon partner Bobby Fish all vying for a shot, leading to what was possibly the most explosive bout of the night, a six man tag match with O’Reilly, Castle and Fish against Cole and his Bullet Club compadres The Young Bucks.
The Superkick Party wasn’t over yet though, the Bucks returned to the ring to cut a vicious promo on a certain #BROKEN TNA personality, only to be interrupted by his villainous drone, Vanguard 1 (or at least a reasonable facsimile). Matt and Nick gave the drone a warm ROH welcome, double superkkcking it straight into the euphoric crowd. There would be no deletion in Philly tonight. You can say what you want about the calculated nature of Bullet Club’s DX meets NWO pastiche shtick, but witnessing the absolute stranglehold these guys have over the audience will have you completely drinking the kool aid and “too-sweet”-ing complete strangers all around you.
WWE defector turned journeyman performer Cody Rhodes also made an impact in the arena, but the cheers turned to boos as Rhodes dove into a relentless heel promo lambasting ROH and its fans, before being cut off by ECW and ROH legend Steve Corino, here making an emotional final in-ring ROH appearance before taking on new duties as a trainer at WWE’s lauded Orlando, FL Performance Center.
Elsewhere on the card, The Rebellion continued to bedevil heroic newcomer Lio Rush, and the recent winners of the brand new ROH Six Man Tag Titles, The Kingdom, faced off against Will Ferrara, Joey Daddiego and fan favorite Cheeseburger. ROH originals Christopher Daniels and The Briscoes, and Japanese legend Justin “Thunder” Liger made an impressive showing in the Decade of Excellence Tournament. And some of the best in the world collided as CMLL sensation Dragon Lee, acrobatic Englishman Will Ospreay, and decorated MMA/NJPW hero Time Splitter Kushida went to war in a triple threat main event.
Photos by Megan Hawkey, Words by Kevin Hawkey