On Sunday Night Ring of Honor ended their three-night Honor United tour of the UK in Bolton and Matthew Roberts was there to cast an eye on the action.
Ring of Honor is a promotion which has a perception of an uncertain future from a lot of fans. Perhaps more than any other promotion it has been disadvantaged by the inception and rise of AEW, which is now seen as the “cool” alternative to the big, bad WWE. Yet wrestling can be a funny thing; for all the apparent strife with RoH they rolled into Bolton for the final night of their tour backed by two well received events and a crowd that if it was a little low on numbers certainly made up for it with their reaction.
Perhaps it was the presence of The Prestigious Joe Hendry in the opener that got the fans going; a relative newcomer to RoH, Hendry’s well loved musical shtick went down a treat in his opening match with Silas Young. The presence of Rampage Brown alongside Young perhaps foreshadowed shenanigans and that was indeed the case in very short order as Brown, on commentary, took offence to being offered an autograph by Hendry and attacked him for the DQ. A beatdown followed which was the cue for Dalton Castle to run-in and make the save and thus, as if we were on a Teddy Long run episode of Smackdown, made for a tag team encounter. That tag team match was good, old school fun. Hendry took a beating, was able to make the hot tag to Castle before some miscommunication from the heels led to their downfall. Ignoring the actual opener which was only a short set up for this tag, this was an entertaining opener that got the crowd going on a high note.
The presence of “local” Molly Spartan (Scottish, but close enough to count for the hometown crowd) meant there was interest in the Women Of Honor match that followed but that was it. Her opponent Mandy Leon once again was, shall we say, deliberate in her movements and moveset and this was nothing more than a basic match with the full-time RoH wrestler going over.
Luckily there wasn’t too much time to dwell on that one as next up was Kyle Fletcher and Lucky Kid (the latter replacing the injured Mark Davis as this was originally scheduled to be Aussie Open) taking on Marty Scurll and Flip Gordon. Scurll was super-over, despite his best efforts to heel it up (in the end he admitted defeat somewhat) and if we’re being honest, everyone involved was over. This was your typical “indie” tag match and your enjoyment of it will depend on your opinion on matches such as this which are packed full of big moves and “finishers” that are only good enough for two counts. Now, I will admit that it is very easy to get blasé about matches of that nature but at the same time they do make for quite the spectacle and this was certainly packed full of “WOW” moments that had you up on your feet. It was fought at a breakneck speed and even at over fifteen minutes this simply flew by.
More tag team action in a similar vein followed as The Briscoes, The Brat Pack and Kenny King & Hikuleo clashed in a three way match. Much like the preceding match this was a high octane affair fought at top pace and jam-packed with big moves. It was great fun for what it was and again featured a lot of moments that had you on your feet. Perhaps it was only the obvious outcome for a Briscoes win that hurt this a little.
The re-emergence of the former “Quebecer Pierre” PCO is perhaps one of the strangest wrestling tales of the past year or so. At an age when he should be, well, not in the wrestling ring he’s actually more popular as a cult figure than he ever was during his “normal” career. Of course it’s his nutty personae and ability to endure all kinds of ridiculous bumps and pain that have got him to this point in 2019. His match here with the newly turned heel Jay Lethal was little more than a lot of stalling (getting to the point where PCO deliberately turned his back and begged Lethal to hit him) followed by some ridiculous spots before Jonathan Gresham interfered for the DQ. With Lethal having only turned heel earlier on this tour and PCO being the number one contender for the RoH Title it was understandable that neither man’s shoulders went down for the three but by the same token it made for a very anti-climatic (and disappointing) ending.
After a post match angle where Lethal and Gresham challenged the Briscoes to a title match at Final Battle and the tag champs running in to accept it was Flamita (replacing the injured Bandido on the Honor United tour) and Speedball Mike Bailey up next. Anyone who knows the two by reputation would have known what we were getting in this one and it’s safe to say that they didn’t disappoint. A wild mixture of lucha libre, striking, insane bumps, death defying dives and exhilarating high spots this was my match of the night. It was back and forth all the way and for once the post match show of appreciation between the two was justified.
Television Champion Shane Taylor hit the ring next and called out any “local competitor” to challenge him (following on from similar angles the previous two nights on the tour). This time, however, it was three regulars in the form of Tracy Williams, Matt Taven and Mark Haskins who called his bluff and after some choice verbals a four way match for the TV title was on. This seemed even more like a run of big moves and finishers than the tag team matches earlier in the evening had been and, in the arena at least, the playing possum at ringside whilst two went at it in the ring scenario felt even more unnatural than usual. Still it had enough going on to ensure that it was never boring and it didn’t outstay its welcome.
And so it was time for the main event and RoH Champion Rush defending the gold against Jeff Cobb. Jim Ross might have called this a match between two “hosses” but if you watch RoH you should know that both men offer up a lot more than that in their repertoires. And whilst there was plenty of hard-hitting big man brawling there was more than enough fast-paced, high flying stuff to ensure that this was a match which had a little bit of everything. Perhaps the only real downside was that Cobb, in particular, seemed REALLY knackered towards the end and the match drifted a little bit rather than building to a crescendo. Still it was a good main event to end a good night of action.
As said, Ring of Honor is perceived to have a number of issues but the action here showed that where it matter, i.e. in the ring, they can still deliver some great action. I’d wager that very few in the crowd would have left disappointed with the action they saw. Whilst it dropped at times, on the whole it was an entertaining night of action and when it was good it was very good.
You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON. Thanks for reading!