May 7th 2017 I attended my fourth annual ROH/NJPW cross-promoted tour stop in Toronto. Each and every one held at the Ted Reeve Community Arena. Before we get to the actual review of the show, I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about the venue. I have, over the years, developed a love/hate relationship with the hockey arena. It holds a good amount of people, and the sight lines from pretty much anywhere in the venue are great, perfectly fine to enjoy the matches. But it’s also prone to traffic jams, immense lines that criss-cross and get confused amongst each other when trying to deal with the meet and greet and merch tables. But worst of all is the huge bottleneck created by the venue using the hockey arena’s penalty boxes to move people from the entrance and GA seating to the floor. It makes no sense and has created giant swirling pools of confused people all mobbing for one way out. Somehow, surprisingly, this year I didn’t encounter any of that, but it was a first specific hell. It was a first.
I had to watch the first few matches while standing in line to see Kenny Omega, because they had seriously oversold the photo op tickets for the ever increasing in popularity killer talent. They at least owned up to it and made certain that everyone who had spent hard earned Canadian dollars got their autographs. I kinda felt sorry for the amazing Japanese talent. My friend and I both got through the line for one of my favourite stars, Hirooki Goto, in literally 0 seconds. No one was lined up for him. Naito had a good long line, but other than him only Kenny had a line. And his dwarfed everyone else put together.
I was lucky enough, while waiting in line with my friend who wanted a group shot with Los Ingobernables de Japon, to have a nice little moment with KUSHIDA. Naito’s line extended to a point where I was standing in front of KUSHIDA. I was rearranging my stuff, I was getting my camera ready and placed my Wrestle Kingdom 11 programme down in such a way that it caught his eye. KUSHIDA looked at me and asked, simply, “Internet?” while pointing at my programme. I smiled, laughed a bit and said “No. Tokyo.” His face lit up and he started asking me about which hotel I stayed at, like he was half-excited to hear about a Canadian travelling to Wrestle Kingdom, and half like he wanted to make certain i really stayed in Tokyo. I stumbled through mispronouncing the name of the Shiodome hotel where I stayed and eventually he smiled, pronounced it properly and I thanked him for the correction. It was a little throwaway moment, but it was me connecting with him on a very human, equal level. I loved it.
Okay, okay. Enough of that. Time to get to the matches.
Match 0: The Fraternity (Channing Decker + Trent Gibson) vs. Cheeseburger + Will Ferrara
The match started with The Fraternity, definitely getting face heat as local talent, doing their usual beer shenanigans. This resulted in Cheeseburger spitting beer in one of their faces to kick off the match. The match was solidly built on some back and forth exchanges, presenting The Fraternity boys as on equal ground with the visiting ROH talent. Cheeseburger’s underdog personality really gets the crowd going and he even hits a nice dive to the outside. The Fraternity heel it up, faking tags and isolating Cheeseburger as their target. They nail some solid offense, including their “Eiffel Tower” double elbow drop (that’s an immature sex joke, right there). Burger does solid underdog work, using The two members of the Fraternity against each other, but they almost get the win over him anyways. Ferrara comes in for the save and Cheeseburger gets the win with the Shotei.
Post match Ferrara gets on the stick and we find out that he and Cheeseburger will be chasing tag-team gold in ROH. That’s an underdog quest right there, I bet the belts are heavier then Cheeseburger.
Match 1: The Rebellion (Caprice Coleman + Rhett Titus) vs. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley + Chris Sabin)
The match started off very fast, It headed outside almost immediately, and coincidentally, entirely out of my view. From the echoing crashes I could tell they were doing a lot of ring barricade spots. When they did get back in the ring it was a pretty standard face vs heel tag team match, with the MCMG doing their most loved vintage spots. The rebellion came out on top out of nowhere, getting the victory in a moment I looked away due to general disinterest in the match. I just don’t like Rhett Titus or Caprice Coleman all that much.
Match 2: Hirooki Goto vs. Shane Taylor
The match starts out mostly with hard hitting strikes, presenting both men on mostly equal footing. Huge lariats and forearms traded back and forth. Taylor hits a huge splash and Goto kicks out of it, only to wind up eating a huge amount of Taylor’s plentiful posterior in the corner. Goto comes back with the GTR following a huge headbutt and fireman’s carry flipped into a neckbreaker over his knee.
Match 3: CHAOS (Trent Beretta, Rocky Romero, and Gedo) vs. Dalton Castle and The Boys
The match starts with Rocky and Dalton in the ring, but he doesn’t want to lock up with the Party Peacock, so he tags in Trent, who likewise wants nothing of Castle and tags in Gedo. Castle does his Peacock pose and Gedo wants absolutely none of it, but RPG VICE jump off of the apron, unwilling to get back in with the bizarre and brazen Dalton Castle. So Gedo does the only reasonable thing, he imitates Castle and they have a pose off… until Gedo decks him.
Now the match kicks into gear, with the crowd in good spirits. There’s a fracas and Dalton clears the ring. CHAOS go to leave, fed up with the weirdness of Castle’s faction, but the boys chase them down and they rawl back to the ring, CHAOS in control, as Dalton waits. After brawling on the outside for a while, CHAOS isolate one of the boys and work him over. The other boy tries to jump in and Romero hits the Forever Clothesline. Then, with Dalton growing impatient on the outside, RPG VICE hit their trademark spots, making certain to work a good bit of comedy in amongst the athleticism.
Dalton distracts the ref and the Boys use twin magic to get a fresh man in so that Dalton can get the hot tag. He starts cleaning house, but eats double knees from RPG VICE. However, it is not enough to keep him down and Dalton is back in it, nails everyone with German Suplexes and hits the Bangarang on Gedo to win.
Match 4: Punishment Martinez vs. Hangman Page vs. Bully Ray
Crowd doesn’t think much of the entrants until Bully Ray is announced, then there is uproarious ovation. He gets on the mic, gets a good cheap ROH pop, says he wants to adhere to the code of honor… but no one else wants to shake hands. Page jumps him before the bell but Bully Ray dips into his bag of classic mannerisms and clears out the ring. It’s short lived success as Page and Martinez work together for a while to try and dominate the ring veteran. The alliance breaks down and Page gets really impressive as he catches Martinez out of the air with a big move. Completely unexpected and highlights why Hangman Page is somehow wrestling’s best kept secret. He’s so good but no one seems to care.
Page and Martinez do some good work outside the ring. Back in the ring afterwards Bully and Page work together for a moment, and Bully calls for “the tables” but page superkicks him and nearly secures himself the victory. Page gets another near fall on Martinez off of his ever improving flipping clothesline. Martinez kicks out and winds up chokeslamming everyone except the referee, but it’s Bully with the win off of a Bubba Bomb to Page.
Match 5: Will Ospreay vs Cody
Cody opens the match with a slap to Ospreay’s face, setting te tone of the match that would follow. They play a game of one-ups-manship, taking turns disrespecting each other and showing off in the early stages of this match. Ospreay even gets the chance to tie Cody up in a nice full body submission hold, reminding us that he can do more than flip around and shoot himself into works.
As the match develops Cody gains control, and The American Nightmare grinds away at Ospreay. He repeatedly thwarts Ospreay’s attempts to make a comeback. If Cody weren’t so beloved, this would have gotten him some good heel heat. Ospreay of course gets the babyface comeback, dumping Cody hard with a move I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. He follows it closely with a beautiful Spiral Tap-like dive but doesn’t secure the three count.
The match builds to a close with a huge sequence that teases the Cross Rhodes, but Cody can’t hit his big finish and Ospreay looks to take control by using his speed and agility. In short, Will flips a bunch. Cody gets the win off of an out-of-nowhere pursuit Disaster Kick that catches Ospreay out of mid air as he springboards off the turnbuckle, followed by a Cross Rhodes for good measure. This match genuinely surprised me with its finishing sequence.
Match 6: The Kingdom (Matt Taven + Vinny Marseglia) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito + BUSHI)
Taven on the stick is better than he is in the ring. Before LIJ even have the opportunity to come down to the ring, Taven gets on the mic and cuts a good heel promo, getting cheap heat by ripping on local sports teams, insulting the fragile egos of hundreds in attendance. The crowd reacts vigorously and he lets them. He stands silent after cutting a remark and the crowd builds to a ravenous chant of “Shut the Fuck Up!”. Taven lifts the mic back to his mouth and delivers the death blow, “I’m not even talking!”.
Once LIJ are in the ring, The Kingdom jump the opposition to get the match started. They 2-on-1 Naito, who treats them like bitches and dumps them to the outside where BUSHI dives on them with alarming velocity. BUSHI absolutely wrecks them.
The Kingdom stay in control for a long while afterwards, working over BUSHI, but he makes a comeback and tags in Naito. Naito’s in like a ball of fire but the comeback is stuffed when his corner outside-in dropkick spot is stuffed. The match builds the audience’s frustration as The Kingdom keep stuffing LIJ’s comeback attempts. That is until BUSHI mists Vinnie out of midair Naito gets in a dick kick and Destino for the win. Sadly a key standout moment in this match was Matt Taven badly and obviously botching a powerbomb.
Match 7: Silas Young + The Beer City Bruiser vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL + SANADA) vs. The Briscoe Brothers (Mark + Jay Briscoe)
Mark and EVIL start off in the ring, but before they can even lock-up Silas blind tags EVIL. This sets a bit of a trend for the match where Silas and the Bruiser are the biggest antagonists in the match. Silas and mark engage in some cool chain wrestling and Silas executes a beautiful bridge escape at the end of the sequence. He’s seriously better than people give him credit for. Each man tags in his partner and Jay Briscoe and the Beer City Bruiser start getting into it when EVIL blind tags the Bruiser. Things again start to get going between EVIL and Jay when the Bruiser blind tags EVIL. I’m seeing a pattern here. With LIJ relegated to the apron, the Beer City Bruiser drops huge moves on jay Briscoe. He and Silas Young maintain control, even after Mark tags in, demolishing him.
Jay gets in and he clears the ring out, there’s a fracas and at the end its SANADA against Jay. SANADA ties him up into a ball and drop kicks him hard, looking to take control, but the Briscoes turn the situation around. They clear everyone out of the ring again and Mark hits a solid brainbuster on EVIL for a close 2 count. Multi-man shenanigans ensue and Beer City comes down on Mark with a gigantic Frog Splash, but SANADA breaks up the pin attempt. Then the match suddenly kicks into high gear, everyone is in and hitting everyone else with signature spots and big moves, the crowd goes wild. It all happened so fast I couldn’t note all the individual moments. Everyone spills outside in hectic, exciting madness and then the Beer City Bruiser just crushes everyone with a huge flip cannonball off of the apron. The Briscoes pick up the win with a neckbreaker/Froggybow combo.
Match 8: KUSHIDA vs. Jay Lethal
Lightning-speed chain wrestling between the two men starts the match. Both men look great and are depicted evenly, each moving as fast as they can and mirroring each other to try and take the advantage and show up their opposition. They play a game of chicken with suicide dives, with jay eventually wrecking KUSHIDA who is out until the count of 19. Lethal gains, and maintains, control of the match with a series of nasty backbreakers. Both men look good during this part of the match, showing creative offense, but Lethal maintains firm control by going back to the backbreakers, clubbing blows to the back, and submissions. Lethal works over KUSHIDA like he were a technically gifted brawler heel to KUSHIDA’s babyface.
Lethal maintains control until KUSHIDA reverses a top-rope move into a combination submission and slam from the top. Jay goes for the Lethal Injection to try and put an end to KUSHIDA’s comeback but gets caught out of the air in a cross armbreaker. KUSHIDA switches arms but eventually Jay reverses the hold and transitions into a Figure-4 Leglock of his own. Lethal catches KUSHIDA with a big powerbomb and goes for his Hail to the King, only to be caught out of mid-air again in another cross arm breaker. Lethal escapes and winds up hitting a surprise cutter. It seems like Jay Lethal is in contol again, when KUSHIDA hits him with the Lethal Injection and transitions into the Hover Board Lock, but Lethal escapes.
KUSHIDA gets a huge Pele Kick and DDT to set up the finish, where he gets the win on Jay Lethal with a Small Package Driver. I have never before seen KUSHIDA use this move, myself, and it is one of my favourite moves in recent years. Looks vicious and also goes immediately into a pinning predicament. I adored this match but the crowd, for some reason, seemed oddly dead and rather disrespectful throughout.
Match 9: Hiroshi Tanahashi + The Addiction (Christopher Daniels + Kazarian) vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson)
The match starts off with Matt Jackson and the ROH World Champion Christopher Daniels in the ring. Matt disrespects the champ by Too Sweet-ing him in the eye, but the tables are quickly turned on him and he gets Too Sweet-ed himself, right in the eye, from each member of the face team. Matt scrambles out and Nick Jackson is in against Kazarian. Nick goes into his usual shenanigans, crotch chopping and telling Kazarian to suck it. They both put on a good display of agility. Then Tanahashi tags in and demands Kenny tag in too. Kenny gets in the ring, but instead of a sporting contest with Tanahashi, The Elite all rush over and jump their opposition en masse.
The Elite take advantage of the opportunity to do a 3-on-1 beat down but it plays for comedy a tonne, instead of serious violence. They tease the Terminator dive with all three members of The Elite, but they are interrupted. Then everyone takes a turn at trying to attack everyone else but they all miss in a prolonged comedy spot. The Elite retake control after the gag, and this time they hit the full three-man Terminator dive. The match at this point has been hectic, fun, and irreverent. Crowd chanting gets The Elite to do their 1 Boot-2 Boots-4 Boots spot that we’ve recently seen them do in cam footage from their UK tour. Kazarian is in against Kenny but again The Elite use shenanigans aand absolutely wreck him with repeated superkicks as they keep propping him back up on the apron after each kick, then they finish their gag spot with a nice senton. Somehow, unbelievably, Kazarian kicks out and still has all his teeth.
Tanahashi is in again and grabs Matt Jackson, putting him into an abdominal stretch and strumming him like he’s a guitar. Somehow Tanahashi can’t put Matt away so they plop him down in the face team corner and use rapid tags in cycle to just stomp away at him. Not just one rotation of tags either, multiple full rotations of the entire team. The Addiction do a good string of team combo moves, followed by The Elite doing the same. Nick Jackson winds up in the ring alone, facing both Daniels and Kazarian. He cures The Addiction all by himself, string together a series of moves that handles both men with ease, and works in his signature spots as well. Tanahashi hits the ring and gets both of the Young Bucks with a double Dragon Screw but can’t capitalize because Kenny is back in the fray.
Kenny kills Tanahashi with a powerbomb. Then the ring is chaos and everyone gets big moves in succession and the crowd loves it. Kenny takes on Daniels and there’s some good back and forth between the two until Kenny murders everyone with Dragon Suplexes. Daniels is almost beaten by a triple Superkick from the entire Elite but kicks out. The faces regroup when Tanahashi comes in like a bolt of lightning and hits Omega with Slingblade, which Daniels follows with a nice Uranage, then Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow and Daniels follows him with the Best Moonsault Ever… but Kenny kicks out! It erupts into craziness with dives to the outside and an Indytaker outside the ring as well. Tanahashi is wrecked by this. Matt Jackson and Kazarian go outside together in a nasty spill with a gross bump. The referee gets kicked and Cody storms the ring for some old fashioned interference, giving Kenny the opportunity to hit the One-Winged Angel on Christopher Daniels for the win.
Overall, a really enjoyable show. Even with their huge roster shakeup and the online uncertainty and criticism of the brand, Ring of Honor continue to produce exciting evenings of professional wrestling. So long as they continue to run shows in Toronto, particularly ones where they take strong advantage of their international partnerships, I will continue to happily attend. I’d love to see them do a similar type of tour, but taking advantage of their partnership with CMLL.
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