Cubed Circle Newsletter 187 – ROH/NJPW Global Wars, Mid-South & EC Go-Home Show
In this week’s issue we take a look at the overwhelming success which was the 2015 ROH/NJPW tour, discuss ‘Global Wars’ night one and ‘War of the Worlds’ night one, Ben reviews the Elimination Chamber 2015 RAW go-home show, an unfortunate return to form, NXT with build to OWENS vs. JOE, and another exciting edition of Mid-South TV from 1981, with at least 50% more Persian clubs!
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
PDF WITH REVIEWS OF GLOBAL WARS, ELIMINATION CHAMBER GO-HOME SHOW, NXT, MID-SOUTH TV FROM 1981/12/23 & MORE!
Wars Between Worlds & Battles Around the Globe: 2015 ROH/NJPW Tour a Major Success
But a couple of weeks ago, for the second consecutive year, NJPW and Ring of Honor joined forces to present a total of four joint shows under the ‘Global Wars’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ titles. The shows were hailed as major successes from both sides, as well as by fans who were presented with a handful of highly memorable matches and some that may stand in the top 50 or so of the year. At the time of writing only two of these shows are available, the first ‘War of the Worlds’ show from Philadelphia, which was exclusively VOD, and the ‘Global Wars’ iPPV from Toronto, which will be our main focus this week.Neither aforementioned show is likely to stand as a show of the year, even pre-G1, but between the two shows there existed very few if any outright bad matches. What is more is that the bulk of the matches on both shows were good, and in the case of the All Stars/Bullet Club, KUSHIDA/Strong, and Cole/Styles matches, actively great.
The ten-man ROH All-Stars versus Bullet Club match on the iPPV, that being the third show of the tour, was perhaps the main event match heading in that had the smallest potential in my view, not because anyone in the match lacked talent, quite clearly this wasn’t the case, but rather that the match would be an uninspired spotfest. The later part of this description is true, but the former couldn’t be less so, with all ten men looking to steal the show, and put on a stunt-filled extravaganza at or exceeding the level of Lucha Underground’s very best. More surprising than the structure of the match was its outcome,with team Ring of Honor defeating the Bullet Club, who were quite possibly the hottest act on that entire card. However, given the nature of the match, I don’t believe anyone would have believed it to have ended in an anti-climax, as the layout was such that the two teams switched heel/face roles frequently, and even if that wasn’t the case, the fans made it be known that there would be no clearly defined faces or heels during the duration of the match.
A notable match of a very different sort took place on the very first night of the tour, when in front of an, at times, hotter crowd than what would follow in Toronto, KUSHIDA and Roderick Strong delivered on what theoretically looked to be a spectacular match-up. The bout was much of what you would want from a modern Ring of Honor match, with both men going at it as hard as possible in a showcase that hybridised mat-based-offence, high flying, strong-style, and technical wrestling in a manner becoming of a top-tier 2000s NJPW Junior Heavyweight title match. Both men are, and have been for quite some time, significantly underrated. This can perhaps be said more confidently for Strong, who has been consistently great since his ROH World title run in 2010, and realistically quite some time before that. However, for whatever reason, Strong’s ability has been subject to greater praise over the past several months than in years prior, which is great for Strong, who deserves all of his current praise and much more. KUSHIDA has been under-appreciated for slightly different reasons, as he his most often partnered with Alex Shelley as a member of the Time Splitters, a great team, but one that has worked patterned matches for quite some time now due to a lack of diversity in opponents. As a single he may very well be the most talented junior in all of New Japan.
Higher up on the first Philadelphia card, the returning Adam Cole lost his return match to AJ Styles in what was, for my tastes, the third best match of the two shows. Whilst it began as what looked to be a fairly generic affair, it actually ended up being a good 15 minute match appended to five or so minutes of mainly uninteresting matwork and hold exchanges. The match was booked in a similar fashion to how Japanese promotions book returning stars, with Cole, suffering ring rust, losing to the fresh Styles, who has been in frequent competition. Some may argue that the finish of the match was excessive, with Styles dropping Cole on his head twice before finishing him with the Styles Clash, but it served as but another device to help Cole remain as over as he was when he left whilst still building AJ up for later matches on the tour.
On the same show not only did we get the surreal booker versus booker Gedo/Delirious match in the opener, but also a three way tag team champions match with The Addiction (ROH World Tag Team Champions), the Young Bucks (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champions) and Bennett & Taven (IWGP World Heavyweight Tag Team Champions). Historically I have been opposed to three-ways of this sort, and three-ways in general, as usually there exists a combination of participants in the triple-threat or fatal four-way that would, probabilistically speaking, put on a better match than the triple-threat itself – that was far from the case here. The six men put on a match that was numerous times better than anything two of the teams would have likely executed, delivering with another highly entertaining spotfest – a spotfest perhaps more likely to give Les Thatcher an embolism than even the main event of the iPPV that would follow. With the Young Bucks pinning Kazarian, a Bucks/Addiction ROH Tag Team Title match later in the year between the two teams is all but confirmed.
An interesting note from both the first ‘Global Wars’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ shows is that with the exception of Shinsuke Nakamura, Jushin Liger, much like last year, garnered the biggest reaction of any non-Gaijin NJPW talent on the show (only the Bullet Club would have received reactions equatable). This is significant, as whilst Liger is usually booked strong in the United States, he generally performs in the undercard on major New Japan shows. What this indicates is that there still exists a residual star perception for Liger from his WCW and tape trading exposure. Of course, the fact that Liger is, at least aesthetically, able to counteract time is a major factor. It should then be noted that whilst Tanahashi and Okada are at present bigger stars world wide, and in Japan most certainly, the 90s still hold a great deal of influence on current fan perception. Nakamura, with his overflowing charisma, is able to best even Liger in the reaction department, which should stand as a testament to his natural endowment as a performer.
On the Ring of Honor side, apart from Roderick Strong, Jay Lethal was perhaps the most impressive star. He was by no means impressive in the same way, however, as he, much like a Ric Flair, made the likes of Takaaki Watanabe – who hasn’t been at all impressive since he left on his excursion and may have actually devolved somewhat – look like a main event star, bumping all over the place for him. He also put on a really good match with Tetsuya Naito, although Naito is clearly a far better worker than Watanabe. Michael Elgin looked good on the tour, although not as good as he has elsewhere over the past year or so. He worked opposite Naito at ‘War of the Worlds’ and Tanahashi at ‘Global Wars. The problem with both matches was the lack of crowd reactions compared to other matches on the show, for what reason I don’t know. Clearly for the Tanahashi match the crowd found it difficult to buy into nearfalls, but the lack of reaction to the Naito match doesn’t seem to have any obvious explanation. Regardless, Elgin has stated publicly for quite some time that one of his career goals is to work for New Japan, which I suspect will happen at some point. Although, from performances on both shows Strong and Lethal will likely get a ticket before him, Strong for his general work, and Lethal for his ring generalship. I have heard discussion of the Briscoes heading over, but for my eyes they didn’t look particularly impressive on this tour, then again, I rarely enjoy the Briscoes’ current work. In fact, I don’t believe I have enjoyed a Jay Briscoe singles match since the insane Cole/Briscoe Fight Without Honor last year. This is personal preference, however, and chances are that due to status within the company alone they will be sent over at some point.
As far as the overall effect of the tour for both companies goes, this year’s tour, much like last year’s, has been an enormously positive one. They ran twice the number of shows this year than last, and sold out every night, with great reactions on every show I saw, and reportedly reactions just as good on the other two events. What this tour will hopefully spawn is an even stronger relationship between the two companies, which will not only pave the way for better joint shows on both sides, but deeper rosters, and for New Japan, perhaps a new and desperately needed excursion ground for young talent.
ROH Global Wars May 15th 2015
Ted Reeve Arena, Toronto, Ontario
1. Silus Young & Takaaki Watanabe vs. Moose & Gedo w/ Veda Scott & Stokely Hathaway
I don’t know what quality of Young’s it is, whether it is his look, natural charisma, or believability, but whatever it is, he has something very special. On a side note, this is a Fire Pro match if ever there was one. Watanabe has adopted quite the bizarre look — bright green and blue tights, purple hair streaks, and a Jeff Hardy rag in his pants. Moose, whilst still very green, was still incredibly impressive and very much over. Watanabe and Moose had a fairly clunky exchange and Young was pinned with Moose’ spear.
2. Kyle ‘O Reilly vs. KUSHIDA vs. Chris Sabin
‘O Reilly did the most bizarre feigned sell job for a KUSHIDA kick, wobbling Anderson Silva style. ‘O Relly locked an armbar in on KUSHIDA in the ropes, but was met with a kick from Sabin out on the floor. There were a few wacky double pin/double submission spots — “this is wrestling” chants followed. KUSHIDA and ‘O Reilly traded kicks to the arm. KUSHIDA landed a moonsault onto ‘O Reilly, but landed rough on Sabin rendering him unable to make the cover. There was a slick series of counters with Sabin and KUSHIDA; KUSHIDA submitted Sabin with a Fujiwara armbar.
3. Jushin Thunder Liger & Matt Sydal vs. Matt Taven & Michael Bennet w/ Maria Kanellis
It still baffles me that ROH has no fear of playing Liger’s theme, derived from a relatively obscure 80s anime, and yet New Japan is forced to dub over it. Liger rebounded off of the ropes and did his Hogan pose — huge pop and no physical toll. Maria pulled Liger’s leg to start the heat. Maria halted Liger’s dive, and looked to seduce him , this led to an abnormally long stair with Liger landing three pairs of double lariats on Taven and Bennett to extend his time with Maria. He then buried his face in her chest setting up a double superkick from Taven & Bennett, and a superkick to Sydal mid-shooting star for their double team and the victory.
4. Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo vs. Cedric Alexander
This match was set to take place last year, but didn’t due to injuries, worked or otherwise. The pair kicked things off with some chain wrestling. Okada landed a dropkick on Alexander to the outside when the lights went out. Okada, like an absolute pro, worked his way in the dark to Alexander and was ready for a draping DDT to the floor when the lights came back on. Alexander landed a monster pele and huge tope con giro to the floor when the lights went out again. Alexander followed with a springboard lariat and Michinoku driver for two. Alexander ducked the rainmaker and landed a springboard DDT. Alexander dropped Okada into his kick and landed a trifecta of running dropkicks in the corner for two. Okada responded with a dropkick, tombstone and the rainmaker for the win.
After the match Okada offered Alexander a handshake, which he declined, perhaps signalling a heel turn down the line.
5. Christopher Daniels & Kazarian vs. RPG Vice vs. BJ Whitmer & Adam Page w/ Colby Corino
Ryan loves him some RPG Vice. Kazarian and Romero did Loony Tunes inspired Taka Michinoku comedy. Kazarian and Daniels worked over Trent, Trent looked to Whitmer and Page for assistance, but they continued the Addiction’s work. Page landed a shooting star press off the apron and landed on his feet! Page pie-faced Daniels telling the “old man” to get out of his ring. Romero did his lariats to Kaz and Daniels in opposite corners. Whitmer was bridged out to the floor and caught with a Romero running knee off the apron. Everyone landed moves on everyone else for a sextuple down. Trent killed Page with a busaiku knee, the pair landed their missile dropkick/inverted piledriver combination, but Daniels and Kazarian broke it up and stole the pin. ‘O Reilly ran out and cleared the ring of Kazarian and Daniels.
6. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. ACH
Next to Liger Nakamura was, not surprisingly, the most over man on the card up until this point. Nakamura called ACH to bring it, ACH did the same, and so a jive exchange ensued as Red Shoes attempted to keep a straight face. ACH was dropped out to the floor for a running knee with ACH draped across the guardrail. Nakamura then did his knee drop guillotine as hard as possible on ACH on the floor. For the sake of his knees, I wish he would stop doing that. ACH unloaded with a kick flurry and did Swagsuke’s pose in the corner, which he may have stolen from the Ibushi match. A strike battle ensued. ACH did his “get over here” gimmick and double stomp to the back of the head for two. ACH landed his giant springboard to the floor and countered a Boma Ye with a dropkick, but was caught right after with a Boma Ye for the pin.
7. ROH Television Championship Match
Jay Lethal vs. Tetsuya Naito w/ Donovan Dijack
Lethal got the heat early throwing Naito into barricades. Naito landed a brief flurry, but was cut off once more and caught with the Savage elbow for two. Lethal decked Naito with an elbow; Naito responded with an enzuigiri, Lethal one of his own, and Naito a leg lariat for a double down. Dijack attempted to interfere, but was sent to the back, allowing Naito to land a frankensteiner. Naito landed a bridging German also for two. Naito missed the stardust press and sold his taped knee. Naito kicked out of a roll-up with Lethal’s feet on the ropes, and again with a handful of tights. Lethal then pinned Naito with the Lethal Injection. Naito offered a handshake and Lethal surprisingly accepted.
8. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Michael Elgin
Elgin entered draped in the Canadian flag. Tanahashi sent Elgin out to the floor briefly, but was met with a summersault legdrop on the way in. Elgin overpowered and wore Tanahashi down on the mat. Tanahashi fought back with rights and left and attempted to knock Elgin off his feet. Elgin responded with an enzuigiri and deadlift German. They fought on the apron, but Elgin dropped off and lariated Tanahashi’s legs out from under him. Tanahashi landed his high-fly flow from the top to the floor on Elgin, which isn’t the greatest of moves to be doing on a comparatively small show like this. Tanahashi got the better of a strike exchange, but Elgin targeted Tanahashi’s bad back. Tanahashi landed a straight jacket German on Elgin, which was quite the feat and then a high-fly flow to the back. He went for one to the front, but Elgin got his knees up, which was unexpected. Elgin landed a big lariat and buckle bomb, but Tanahashi ricocheted off into a slingblade and high-flow flow for the win.
9. Roderick Strong, Jay Briscoe, Hanson, Rowe & Mark Briscoe vs. AJ Styles, The Young Bucks, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows
Strong was wrestling with stitches. The Bullet Club, who entered as a unit, got far and away the most streamers of the night. The fans chanted for “AJ Styles”, “The Young Bucks”, “Machine Gun”, and yes, even “Gallows”. The match broke down immediately with not the BC, but the ROH side getting the first strike. Everyone hit everyone else with every move ever. I gave up on writing anything down. Mark Briscoe pinned Matt Jackson for the win. After the match Jay Lethal attacked Briscoe and laid him out with a belt shot. If you are not Les Thatcher (if you are, it is probably best for your health to avoid this), seek this match out, it is well worth your time.
Star Ratings for the first ‘War of the Worlds’ show.
1. Gedo vs. Delirious
2. Roderick Strong vs KUSHIDA
3. Jay Lethal vs. Takaaki Watanabe
4. Young Bucks vs. Addiction vs. Mike Bennett & Matt Taven
5. Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin
6. reDragon vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Hiroshi Tanahashi
7. AJ Styles vs. Adam Cole
8. Shinsuke Nakamura & Kazuchika Okada vs. The Briscoe Brothers