History was made as New Japan and Ring of Honor entered “the house that Vince built” with a show in Madison Square Garden. It’d be a newsworthy show for so many reasons…
Commentary initially comes from the trio of Ian Riccaboni, Kevin Kelly and Colt Cabana.
Kenny King opened the Honor Rumble as he asked to be number one… joined by another king, Minoru Suzuki. Poor Kenny. They overdubbed Kaze Ni Nare, but not the chants!
Kenny took Suzuki way too lightly, going for chops that Suzuki just laughed off before he decked him with a forearm. Here comes the countdown, as number three was Cheeseburger. Poor sod. Like a fool, he too antagonises Suzuki, and gets clobbered with an elbow. Yep, they still ring around the Garden!
Next out: Beer City Bruiser, who jabs everyone with Dusty punches before he bit Suzuki… you can guess what happened next. Suzuki puts the boots to him as SHO hit the ring. Shingo Takagi’s out after that, going straight after SHO as that feud from New Japan hit Stateside. A Pumping Bomber nearly hits SHO as BUSHI joins the ever-filling ring. Of course, BUSHI helps out Shingo, squashing SHO with a back senton and a legdrop as an early hooter greeted a countdown… then the arrival of #8: YOH.
Something in the ring exploded as there’s a tonne of black beads on the mat… YOH blocks a Dragon screw before taking down Shingo with one of his own. Beer City Bruiser’s gone as Shaheem Ali heads out. A swinging uranage from Ali dropped YOH, but nobody capitalises as Shingo and Suzuki went at it. Next out is Rhett Titus, who’s doing a bargain basement Chris Masters gimmick, choosing to pose and do moves that fit into poses. Another ticker brings out Leon St. Giovanni, sadly sans moustache, before Ryusuke Taguchi and his dubbed music appeared. Taguchi’s filming his run to the ring as he pelted a rugby ball at Shingo in the corner… and these entries aren’t really timed as Will Ferrara is out next. Contain your excitement.
Next up is Chase Owens, who goes after Suzuki from the off as this ring’s gotten way too full. Chase counters a Taguchi hip attack into an atomic drop. Rocky Romero’s next as he squares off with Taguchi following their match at Rev Pro yesterday, but this time Rocky’s on the right page as he goes wild with Forever lariats. Poor BUSHI gets clobbered with an endless train of lariats in the corner, before he got thrown out by Romero. Out next was Brian Milonas, who helps dump Ali and LSG out of the ring as Bad Luck Fale entered, presumably to help clear the ring. He single handedly dumps out SHO and YOH, before Cheeseburger was thrown out… and caught. His team mates throw him back in as Jonathan Gresham’s entrance is completely overshadowed.
We get the head-to-head with Fale and Milonas, as more eliminations happen around them. Suzuki turfs out Shingo, while Tracy Williams comes down to play his part in this. YOSHI-HASHI comes out at number 20. Williams throws headbutts with Suzuki, who’s more than happy to throw back as PJ Black hits the ring. Chase Owens and PJ Black try to chop Suzuki, stupidly, but it’s Chase who gets tossed out just in time for Jushin Thunder Liger and his awful overdub. Until then, the crowd had lost interest so much they didn’t even bother to join in the countdowns. There’s Shoteis for all in the ring, as Liger eliminates Milonas. TK O’Ryan’s in… and almost out just as quick as he went for PJ Black, kicking him low as the next Kingdom entrant comes in – Vinny Marseglia.
Delirious is next, running laps around the ring before he went in to back rake everyone… by the time he did, Tomohiro Ishii got the call out, and he clashes heads with PJ Black before an attempt to suplex him out of the ring finally paid off. Toru Yano’s next in… but he swaps places with Colt Cabana instead! Hey, Chris Charlton’s on commentary too, but we’ve not heard a word. Hirooki Goto’s next as everyone in the ring tries to eliminate Fale… and it works too! YOSHI-HASHI’s gone too, as King Haku entered to represent the Bullet Club… instantly going for Colt with a Tongan Death Grip, prompting Toru Yano to hit the ring to make a save! Great Muta completes the field, prompting rightful “holy shit” chants as we’ve completed our field. Muta throws out Delirious as Yano manages to untie a ring pad… he accidentally clobbers Colt with it as Suzuki just takes out the two of them.
Gresham goes by way of Muta, while Suzuki boots Goto off the apron and out of the ring. We get roars as Ishii and Suzuki trade elbows, before Ishii counters a Gotch style piledriver by lifting Suzuki onto the apron. A hanging armbar led to Suzuki’s elimination as Ishii punches free. The Kingdom eliminate Haku, then Ishii (that one wasn’t popular!), as the final four proved to be Muta, Liger, O’Ryan and Marseglia. Liger Shotei’s Marseglia out, while O’Ryan goes by way of Muta… and those are your final two! Liger and Muta… one of them’s getting a title shot, and it may well be Muta, who Dragon screws Liger to the mat. Except they weren’t the final two, because Kenny King had hidden on the outside, and slid in to throw them both out for a rather anticlimactic win. Well, that kinda plays into how commentary lost track of eliminations throughout the match. But hey, this was a cracking rumble with plenty of surprises, and guess what? New Japan’s overcard was way more popular with this crowd than the ROH crew… ***
The main show opens with a video package about how “the impossible is now possible”, featuring talking heads from both sides of the ROH and New Japan divide, and we pitch back to our commentary trio to run down the main events.
NEVER Openweight x ROH World Television Championships: Will Ospreay (NEVER) vs. Jeff Cobb (ROH)
We kick off with a dual title match, and Ospreay was about to shoot out of the gates, only for Cobb to charge into him with a POUNCE right into the corner!
Ospreay headed outside, but Cobb sent him into the crowd… where Ospreay returned from quickly with a springboard forearm ahead of a Sasuke special that Cobb eventually caught, ahead of a DDT on the floor! Christ, that’s a hot opening minute. Returning to the ring, Ospreay’s lifted onto the apron before his next springboard was caught, with Will dumped onto the top turnbuckle for a chop and delayed superplex! Cobb continues to hurl Ospreay from corner-to-corner as the ROH TV champion was making the most of his size advantage. A back elbow off the ropes dropped Ospreay for a two-count… and another comeback from Ospreay ends when his ‘rana’s caught and turned into a bear hug. Forearms from Ospreay break it up, but there’s an instant chop as a handspring back elbow from Ospreay managed to get him back in the game.
The over-the-top rope 619 hits Cobb, as does a springboard forearm, before he tried way too early for a Storm Breaker. Instead, Ospreay tries for some Kawada-style kicks, only for Cobb to catch one and counter it into a massive fallaway slam! A Samoan drop and a standing moonsault follow as Cobb almost claimed new gold… then again after Cobb punched out Ospreay, only to get caught with a clubbering lariat. Ospreay’s hook kick rocks Cobb, who responds with a superkick that looked to bloody up Ospreay’s already-broken nose, as a Spanish fly left both men down. A missile dropkick to Cobb’s taped-up shoulder followed as Will then set up for a Hidden Blade… but Cobb ducks and comes back with a Tour of the Islands attempt, which Ospreay turned into the Code Red for a near-fall. Hi Red!
Will keeps up with a kick to the head, but an OsCutter’s stopped before it got going as Cobb folded him in half with another vicious clothesline. A Cobb frog splash comes up short, allowing Ospreay to hit the Robinson special before the OsCutter got caught… Cobb throws him into the corner, but Will just leaps out and lands it anyway as he ALMOST took the title! The hook kick followed in again, as Cobb slumps to the mat, as Ospreay then teased a Storm Breaker… and ended up staggering into the corner as he loses balance. Nevermind, Will turns the negative into a positive with a Cheeky Nando’s, before he teased an avalanche Storm Breaker off the top. Cobb headbutts him away, then took him on an avalanche Tour of the Islands! Another Tour of the Islands followed, and Jeff Cobb wins the NEVER title! Holy mother of God, that was a good opener – Ospreay wasn’t able to make lightning strike twice, as it seemed that his transition to heavyweight left him vulnerable against a much bigger man here, as he looked to be caught between two gameplans. ****
Dalton Castle vs. Rush
Dalton’s got more Boys than usual here, helping out with cardboard peacock feathers on the stage.
Rush refuses to shake hands before the bell, instead shooting into Castle with a shotgun dropkick and a pair of Shibata-ish dropkicks… and that’s the flash win for Rush. So, so easy! Well, Dalton Castle’s been carrying injuries for forever, and perhaps that’s the farewell (for now) as Rush is set to go to the next level. SPLAT.
After the match, Castle looked disconsolate as the Boys tried to cheer him up. Bad idea, lads, as Castle picked one of them up and killed him with a gutwrench slam. The other one eats a Bangarang, and that’s a new page turned for Dalton.
There’s an advert for the G1 Climax 29 – or more specifically, the opening night in Dallas. Mandy Leon joins commentary for this match… but we cut backstage as Juice Robinson has been found laid out under a pile of chairs. That’s his match with Bully Ray in doubt later on tonight…
ROH Women of Honor Championship: Kelly Klein vs. Mayu Iwatani (c)
These two have had four prior matches and are 2-2… so this is the blow-off, you’d have to think.
Aja Perera and Fred Yehi were at ringside as part of Camp Klein, which is just so odd to see, and we have a passing handshake from Mayu before the bell. Kelly sends her guys to the back before the bell, but Iwatani hesitates to do the same as Sumie Sakai remained in her corner. We start out quickly as the pair exchanged arm wringers, before Klein kicked away at Iwatani’s recently injured knee. A modified Stretch Plum looked to force a submission early, but she lets go as the crowd (as ever) struggled to get invested. There’s a Dragon screw whip to the leg, which remained the focus as Klein used a grapevine before she got caught in a rear naked choke by the champion.
Klein gets free, but she’s forced to catch a crossbody from Iwatani as it’s turned into a fallaway slam. Mayu trips Klein and kicks her out of the ring, before following out with a body press that could have led to a count-out… but Klein ends up grabbing Iwatani and throwing her into the turnbuckles from the floor. Iwatani tries for a ‘rana, but has to counter into a reverse ‘rana for a near-fall… and I’m not gonna lie folks. Half of this match isn’t good. A superkick nearly puts Klein away, before a Dragon suplex looked to be rather fortuitous as Klein landed with her feet in the ropes. Mayu misses a moonsault off the top, and that looked to be the death knell as Klein ended up taking the win with a spinning death valley driver. I’ll be honest, I was distracted towards the end of this by reports of what was happening at the WWE Hall of Fame. Judging by the crowd, a lot of folks here were also nonplussed. **¼
After the match, the Beautiful People (not identified as that) appear in the aisle – Angelina Love and Velvet Sky. There’s a staredown as they eventually enter the ring, as Mandy Leon joins them… and after attacking Klein with her heels, we’ve a three-on-one beatdown. Jenny Rose tries to make a save, but she’s dispatched… while Stella Grey gets sprayed in the face. They draw the Anarchy logo on Klein’s face in lipstick as we realise that Women of Honor has a deep, deep roster. Sarcasm. Oh, they’re called the Allure.
Commentary tells us that Juice Robinson is off his match, which is due next. Caprice Coleman joins the busy commentary table, which somehow doesn’t have room for Chris Charlton. Yet. Instead, we have a performance from Mega Ran, which gets some boos, although that may well be for his Tetris jacket…
That’s the cue for Bully Ray to interrupt, as the crowd chanted “we want tables”. Mega Ran tries to endear himself, but it doesn’t work, especially as Ran says that the crowd wanted D’Von. This is dying a death, and almost turns Bully Ray face. Ran squares up to Bully Ray, but gets chain whipped.
Long story short, Bully’s open challenge was answered by Flip Gordon – who was meant to have reinjured his knee in Dublin last month. Clearly not…
New York City Street Fight: Bully Ray vs. Flip Gordon
Flip superkicks, then springboard spears Bully to get us going… but he ends up leaping into a Bubba cutter off the top rope as it’s time for the plunder! Eventually Bully finds a table, and all of a sudden Shane Taylor and Silas Young come out… except the lights go out as they’re about to Kendo Stick Flip through the table. Out comes Life Blood as Juice Robinson (who’s fine) and Mark Haskins appear… and Juice has… a bin full of plunder as he makes this a trios match…
New York City Street Fight: Bully Ray, Shane Taylor & Silas Young vs. Flip Gordon, Mark Haskins & Juice Robinson
So we start with the originally scheduled pairing after Haskins saved Flip from a table powerbomb… Dusty punches back and forth culminate in a Left Hand of God from Juice, before Silas makes a save with a chair.
Haskins is back with a roll-through death valley driver to Silas, only to get dumped with a lariat from Taylor. Flip tries to jump in, but Taylor catches him… then gets sent outside as duelling topes from Flip and Haskins took Taylor and Silas into the guard rails. Meanwhile, Bully Ray’s got a Kendo stick, which he breaks apart on Flip’s back, as Taylor and Silas find more Kendo sticks. They get worn out on Flip’s back, whose back is all cut up from it… and eventually the Lifeblood trio get Kendo sticks for a wacky duel.
These Kendo sticks wear out quickly as Bully Ray tried to beg off… of course, it’s for nought as the match continued until Shane Taylor swatted away Flip with a trash can. From there, the bad guys set up for a Cerberus powerbomb through a table, which flipped Flip inside out on impact… but Juice and Haskins crotch Bully into the ringpost seconds after, as Lifeblood made a comeback. Silas Young trips Haskins into a chair, then dumps him through it with a Twister, but Haskins makes a comeback, stomping Silas into the chairs, before running into a Fire Thunder driver from Taylor. That looked NASTY. Taylor brings a pallet into the ring, and drapes it into the corner… only for a bin shot from Juice to put Taylor against it ahead of a cannonball that splits the pallet.
Somehow Bully’s back, but he’s stopped by a Kendo stick shot from Flip before Juice slammed Bully Ray… and set up the ol’ Wazzup spot, with Haskins landing the headbutt. One spinebuster later, then a 450 from Flip, and that’s a stacked up pin for the win. Well, I don’t follow ROH booking enough to criticise, but why book a “Juice Robinson isn’t cleared to compete” angle when he’s fine to turn up 20 minutes later with no injuries? That part was trash, while the match was fine for a plunderfest. **
Right, that’s the WWE-lite crap done, can we forget that part of the card didn’t happen?
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Dragon Lee vs. Bandido vs. Taiji Ishimori (c)
We’ve got Makoto Abe here to ring announce in Japanese for the New Japan matches. Does that mean Generic Number Three’s there for the Rev Pro match later?
Dragon Lee and Bandido go flying out of the gates, with Bandido taking him outside for a Sasuke special early on, while Ishimori rolls Bandido through on the mat for a neck twist. Dragon Lee gets a quick payback with a flying ‘rana to the outside on Bandido, before Ishimori joined in with a moonsault as this was more like the show people paid for! Back inside, Ishimori catches Bandido with a flying seated senton, which forced Dragon Lee to break up the cover on, ahead of a Combinacion Cabron to the champion in the corner. A Shibata-ish dropkick followed, then a double underhook backbreaker before Bandido came back with an X-Knee (reverse Go To Sleep) as the pace stayed high.
In the corner, Dragon Lee tries to Del Rio stomp Ishimori, but Bandido stops it as another flash Parade of Moves led to all three men being left laying, as a replay showed a La Mistica from Ishimori stopped by a Destroyer. Way too quick lads! They’ve got the crowd back, as Ishimori took a huge pop-up cutter from Bandido for a near-fall as Dragon Lee was rolling to the outside. Ishimori nearly nicks it with a ‘rana, before a tombstone gutbuster expelled the air out of Dragon Lee for a near-fall. Bandido kicks away a Bloody Cross as he wanted his shot at Ishimori, taking him up top before Bandido somehow landed a DOUBLE MOONSAULT FALLAWAY SLAM. What in the bloody hell was that?!
Production switches to a bad camera as we miss something… but we’re back as Bandido ate a reverse ‘rana from Dragon Lee, who then took Ishimori out with a knee as Bandido ate Desnucadora… and we’ve a new champion! Dragon Lee is your new IWGP Junior heavyweight champion in a match that was a touch on the short side, but barmy as all hell. Why the hell did the prior trios match go so long and this so short??? ****
IWGP x ROH Tag Team Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) vs. Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (IWGP) vs. Villain Enterprises (Brody King & PCO) (ROH)
PCO got an entrance to himself, in among the lasers as we had a throwback to the WCW Chamber of Horrors as he was chained to an electric chair and “brought to life”.
It’s craziness from the off as the match spilled outside, with PCO hitting a tope con giro into a Briscoe… and why in God’s name is Tiger Hattori the official here?! We quickly settle down as the two champions face off as for some reason the Spanish commentary bled through. SANADA catches Tama Tonga and ties him in a Paradise Lock… leading to the low dropkick to free him. The Briscoes are next, charging through SANADA as we have the rotating door policy, leading to Brody King squashing the Briscoes with a crossbody. Tanga Loa’s in next with a poke to the eye, before some headscissors took him into the ropes for a cannonball to the back. Brody heads out with a tope con giro as we entered into the diving part of the match, with a corkscrew moonsault from Mark Briscoe.
There’s way too many bodies flying around here to keep track of, as production nearly misses EVIL swinging a chair off of Tama’s head on the outside. Not sure why there’s a distraction as I’m sure these multi-ways are inherently no-DQ. A Jay Driller puts down SANADA, before a froggy elbow from Mark almost got the win, but Brody King makes a save as we continue on… with Mark Briscoe plancha’ing into a chokeslam on the apron, as PCO sets up for a senton onto Mark on the edge of the apron. That goddamn crushed him! A Ganso bomb keeps Mark down, as PCO heads up top again, landing a moonsault, but Tama Tonga breaks up the pin this time.
The Guerrillas look to extinguish PCO for good with a double-team powerbomb to the floor – not through a table or anything… but PCO just sits bolt upright! Brody King tries to keep going as Tama Tonga has the ref tied up, and of course, a Kendo stick shot from Jado stops Brody before the World Class Tag Team super powerbomb finds its mark as the Guerrillas leave with two sets of titles. Not sure where the Briscoes or LIJ were there, but it’s fresh gold for the Bullet Club, so… eh? This was fine, but just far too rushed for my taste. Enjoyable as hell, but this manic tag matches was just too much on this show when there’s a lack of goodwill. ***½
After the match, Toru Yano was shown on the stage, having stolen the IWGP tag titles… so the Guerrillas don’t QUITE have two sets of belts.
You could just about see on-screen Enzo Amore jumping the railings after the match. The camera crew shot it so you could see a little bit of him being beaten down on by the Briscoes. Later, you could see Bully Ray in the background trying to restore order, along with shots of Enzo and Cass celebrating in the crowd. What the hell is going on with this show, and this company, as reports surfaced that this was planned by ROH…
RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
We’ve no generic number three here, as the New Japan announcer’s doing the introductions… but yes, we have TAKA to do his pre-match stuff… in English!
Chris Roberts is your ref, and we start with Sabre scrambling with Tanahashi on the mat, before he looked to take the upper hand with uppercuts… only for Tanahashi to come out of the corner with a crossbody. Sabre catches Tanahashi in a cross armbreaker, pulling his arm back so much they ended up rolling into the ropes, before Sabre stomped on the elbow of Tanahashi. Tanahashi charges at Sabre, but he’s sent over the top rope… where Sabre comes in with a Suzuki-like armbar in the ropes as Tanahashi tried to skin the cat. A low dropkick from Tanahashi catches Sabre as the momentum was building, following in with a slam and a flip senton for a near-fall in the corner.
Sabre’s back with a Cobra Twist, but Tanahashi counters it, only for Sabre to go right back in as they end up jockeying for position. In the end, Sabre catches Tanahashi with headscissors and an armbar in the ropes, before Tanahashi came back with a Dragon screw in the ropes on Sabre. Zack hit back with a triangle armbar as he tried to squeeze Tanahashi into submission, but Tanahashi stands up and rolls him into a Cloverleaf! After a rope break, Tanahashi followed up with a Slingblade, but Sabre gets to his feet and boots Tanahashi on the top rope before a High Fly Flow could be teased.
Sabre followed Tanahashi up top with a Kimura, then dropped him arm-first on the ropes before a PK was caught… but Sabre switches a Dragon screw into a Euro clutch for a near-fall, before he came close again with a PK. TAKA calls for a Zack Driver, but Tanahashi slips out and hits an O’Connor roll for a two-count, before he went for Sabre’s knee with a Dragon screw to the mat. Another Euro clutch out of nowhere keeps Sabre on top, before he ran into a guillotine… which Tanahashi countered into a Twist and Shout… then another… then another, before a Slingblade connected for a near-fall. Sabre takes it back to the ground with a trapped-arm armbar on Tanahashi, pulling back as we crossed the 15 minute mark, and with Tanahashi tied up like a pretzel, we had a verbal submission as Sabre racked up the win. A fantastic match, albeit one that had an atmosphere dogged with the afters from the prior match. Watch this one with a clear head, and you’ll find a good quarter-hour of wrestling. ****
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
Chris Charlton appears on commentary here, and we start with Naito winding up Ibushi as he constantly side-stepped lock-ups.
There’s a quick flurry that ended with headscissors and a stand-off, before another exchange ended with a ‘rana to take Naito outside. Naito rolls in to avoid a Golden Triangle, sending Ibushi to the outside as he swept the leg and dropkicked him to the floor, before an Irish whip sent Ibushi into the guard rails, spooking a security guy in the process. Another one sends Ibushi into the front row, as Naito rushed back to the ring searching for a count-out win… but the crowd helped Ibushi back into the ring in plenty of time. Back inside, Ibushi’s dropped with a neckbreaker as a cravat keeps him down on the mat, only for Ibushi to get free and come back with a dropkick. Elbows from Naito help get him back in it, as he propelled Ibushi into the corner as a dropkick dumped Ibushi on his head for a near-fall. OOF. A series of neckbreakers follow as Naito continued to go after the head and neck of the challenger, but Ibushi manages to find a way back in, using the ropes to attempt a deadlift German suplex, before he got pulled onto the apron where he sent Naito down to the floor with a ‘rana!
Ibushi tries to capitalise with a stomp back inside as the crowd processed that ‘rana, before a tornado DDT from Naito nearly brought the match to a screeching halt. Another ‘rana, this time from Naito, leaves Ibushi loopy ahead of Gloria for a near-fall – and yeah, Ibushi landed high on the neck that he seems to hate. Naito looks for a flying forearm, but misses as Ibushi came in with a clothesline before he took Naito onto the apron for another crack at the deadlift German suplex, dumping Naito high on the neck as he came within a hair’s breadth of the win. A strait-jacket German’s next for a near-fall, before he sat down on a wheelbarrow from Naito… who rolls through and eventually dropped Ibushi on his head as the quest to rid Ibushi of those vertebrae continued.
Elbows from Naito look to have finished off Ibushi, but the challenger’s got something left in the tank as Naito laughs off the responses. Kicks just seem to fire up a dazed Ibushi, who shot back with a palm strike, then another, then another, before he’s caught with a reverse ‘rana and a massive Destino for a near-fall! HOW?! A second Destino’s blocked as Ibushi landed a head kick, before he shot in with a pair of Bomaye knees for a near-fall as we crossed the 20 minute mark. From there, Ibushi sets up for a Last Ride, and lands it despite Naito’s punches, before he grabbed hold of the champion’s wrists and pulled him up for a Kamigoye… which was enough to seal the win! The sheer number of head drops may have been sickening, but this was another classic Ibushi outing as he made damn sure Naito wasn’t going to even think of sleepwalking through this. ****½
Out come the ladders as we prepare for the first of our two main events…
Ladder Match for ROH World Championship: Marty Scurll vs. Matt Taven vs. Jay Lethal (c)
There’s a live music entrance for Matt Taven, which may tip something off?
Well, the madness starts with Jay Lethal baseball sliding into Marty Scurll as he tried to come in with a ladder… before they used said ladder to swat away Taven’s tope. Good job! A cartwheel dropkick keeps Taven down as he was really feeling his forearm… Lethal grabs some chairs from under the ring, as he went to set up some wacky structure in the aisle. Taven’s dropped again with a tornado DDT by Scurll, who goes for another ladder… but he slides it into the ring as ladders get draped across the corners. Of course, Taven’s bounced across the pair of them… and after some buffering, Marty ends up hanging Lethal in a Tree of Woe, in a ladder, before whacking a chair repeatedly into the ladder. OW.
Marty climbs the ladder, but takes his umbrella to help unhook the belt, only for Taven to stop him with a superkick. Lethal manages to get free to throw Taven into a ladder, but he’s quickly caught with chops in the ropes before Marty gets dragged outside as Lethal again found himself in a ladder… which Taven PK’d off of him. The crowd may not care, but they’re definitely going all out here. Taven climbs a ladder, only to be stopped by Scurll’s chops… but Marty wasted too much time as he got stopped by Lethal, who trips him into the ladder and ties him up with a Figure Four that nearly tipped the ladder over. Taven tries to capitalise, but Lethal stopped him… and managed to find a way through as Scurll’s attempted apron superkick was cut short when he tweaked his knee.
A cutter from Lethal on the apron gives him a chance, but instead he opts to chop Taven, who lifts him outside before landing a running powerbomb onto that ladder bridge that was left in the aisle. Back inside, Scurll teases a suplex on Taven into the ladder, but he ends up taking Matt into the ropes for a 619, before Taven’s DDT cut off Scurll as he was in mid-flow. Yep, MSG hated Taven for that.
Scurll tries to come back with a finger snap, but gets dumped onto a ladder with a rolling neckbreaker from Taven as Lethal’s still down and out on the floor. We get a superplex off a ladder in the corner, just for the hell of it, as Taven was sent flying. A chicken wing attempt quickly ends when Taven backed Marty into a ladder, and somehow Lethal’s back in the ring… and climbing?! He gets a hand to the belt, but Taven stops him… then gets punched to the mat as Lethal left himself open for a chicken wing on the ladder. Lethal elbows his way free, but drops to the mat as Taven found his way on the top of the ladder… only to have his fingers snapped. It meant Taven couldn’t climb any higher though, after Lethal used an umbrella to knock Scurll down, and we’re back to square one. Taven gets wiped out with a Lethal Combination into the side of a ladder, before Marty ducks a lawn darted ladder, which ended up setting up another wacky structure in the corner.
X marked the spot with those ladders, as Marty dumped Taven into the cross-section, before Lethal hit a Lethal Injection to leave Scurll laying. All Lethal has to do is separate the ladders and climb, before he threw the ladder out… sending it right into a fan in the front row. Christ. In the aftermath, a table comes into play, but Scurll just brainbusters Lethal on the floor so he could set it up himself. Lethal and Scurll fight on the apron, to the point where the camera crew barely catches Taven spearing Marty off the apron and through the table, completely demolishing it with an ugly impact. Lethal manages to find a mega ladder, having put Taven on a table… and sure enough, Lethal climbs and flies with a Macho Man elbow drop to explode the table.
In the ring, Scurll’s got a regular ladder… but he’s taking his time to climb… and it gives Taven enough time to find a new, purple ladder underneath the ring. That ladder’s almost touching the belt before it’s opened, and while Scurll and Lethal were brawling, they almost missed Taven getting in through the back door. More ladder contraptions are set up as Scurll’s bounced into one ladder bridge, leading to Taven and Lethal climbing the purple ladder… they’re at the top, but Lethal gets shoved down into the ladder bridge, giving Taven the easy task of untying the belt for the win. Well, they damn near killed each other through and through, and while this may be unpopular, this may well have been the match that saved the show from the ROH side. ****¼
I must say, from that last match, Nick Aldis was a magnificent colour commentator. I’ve not seen much of him wrestling as of late, but he fit the role like a glove here.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White (c)
Well, we’re nearly five hours gone from the start of the pre-show, but the Garden’s still hot for Okada. No shock, huh?
White’s got a newly-minted title belt, presumably with more side plates… Of course, we start with White powdering outside to waste time, before a lock-up ended with Okada taking White into the ropes for a fake-out on the clean break. A shoulder tackle takes White down with ease, but Okada stops in his tracks as Gedo teased interfering, allowing White to come back with a headlock takedown. Okada manages to get free and land a neckbreaker for a one-count, prompting White to powder outside again, where he suckered in Okada… only to get sent into the guard rails, then the front row! Gedo provides a distraction as Okada looked for a draping DDT, only for White to come back with a butterfly suplex to dump Okada into those guard rails.
Back inside, an Arabian clutch has Okada in trouble, as did some chops in the corner, then a DDT as White decided to pose to the crowd rather than stick on Okada. White rolls Okada into a Muta lock, but after a rope break, Okada fought back, dropping White with a DDT as the match again headed outside, this time with Okada clearing the front row so he could send White back in there, following through as he hurdled the barriers to crash into White and Gedo in the front row. HOW HAS FIFTEEN MINUTES PASSED?
Back in the ring, Okada went for a neckbreaker slam, but instead gets dumped with a Saito suplex, then with a twister suplex, before Okada caught him with that neckbreaker slam anyway. White scurries into the corner as Okada was building up steam, teasing a tombstone as the challenger just ended up charging into the Kiwi with a shotgun dropkick! A missile shotgun dropkick’s next for a two-count from Okada, as the Rainmaker elbow drop followed off the top rope… and RAINMAKER POSE!
White drops to his backside as Okada went for the Rainmaker, and after landing a Flatliner, White followed up with a headlock suplex into the turnbuckles, before a Sambo suplex dropped Okada for a near-fall. On the VOD, the crowd’s starting to get tired… A Kiwi Krusher’s blocked by Okada, who knees, then elbows his way free, before he got dumped to the outside with a Saito suplex. White brings him back in quickly for a Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall, only to be caught with a flash tombstone as Okada gave himself some hope. We’re back to strikes as the crowd cheered and booed in unison, only for a missed Okada dropkick to leave him wide open for a chop.
More chops from White sting Okada in the ropes, but he’s right back in on the champion with a dropkick as we cross 25 minutes… and that’s the cue for more Gedo interference. Nevermind, Okada dispatches him, then lands a dropkick, before his Rainmaker’s countered into a sleeper suplex. Another dropkick to the back of the head stings White, who tried to sneak in with a Blade Runner, only for Okada to retaliate with a discus Rainmaker… then a regular Rainmaker, but White managed to kick out at two! The crowd roared even more behind Okada after that kick-out, but White slips out of a tombstone and countered with a Blade Runner that he couldn’t roll over and make a cover on, so we had to wait for them to get to their knees and exchange elbows back-and-forth as we sail past half an hour.
Again, Gedo comes in, masking a low blow from White as Okada was left in a heap on the mat. Somehow, Okada manages to slip out of a Blade Runner to hit a German suplex, before a Rainmaker’s countered in and out of… another dropkick connects flush, before a series of boots from White earned him a Rainmaker… then another… then a spinning tombstone, as Okada put the icing on the cake with one more Rainmaker… and with Jay White falling at v0, Kazuchika Okada is ONCE AGAIN your IWGP champion!
Was a slow-paced Jay White match after five hours of hit and miss action the last thing we needed? In isolation, this was your usual Okada epic that’ll be hailed in the sheets and showered with stars, but much like the NXT main event the prior night, this was an outing that perhaps didn’t come across as good on VOD as it seemed to in the building. Still, you know the score; in the cold light of day, and away from whatever tired/grumpiness there is at 5am… ****½
Considering the number of highly-rated matches, it’d be a shock to summarise this as a show of two halves, at least in terms of what was brought to the table. ROH, who were already struggling with a perception issue among the masses since the Bullet Club/Elite left, well and truly underwhelmed in their MSG debut, perhaps exposing what so many criticised them for last year, in a product that was hollow without the Bullet Club. Meanwhile in the bright lights of the Garden, pretty much every New Japan match on the card delivered – even with the burden of what was surrounding it.
Booking supposed worked-shoots like the Enzo and Cass incident won’t curry favour with a section of the fanbase, but right now, to someone who has only a passing interest in ROH, this show would do nothing to make you want to watch the company who carried New Japan’s bags here. A lot of the ill-feeling may subside away from the live watch, but to borrow a baseball term, the stage was set for ROH to swing for the fences… and instead they just bunted the ball away and let New Japan do the hard work.