After all I’ve posted on here, my wrestling nerd credentials are fairly established. I’ve been to a WWF/E PPV (WM14), WCW PPV (Slamboree 1998), ECW PPV (Heat Wave ’98), RAWs, Nitros and even some shows from Chaotic, the local independent promotion. But I’ve never been to a Ring of Honor show until this past Friday’s All Star Extravaganza VIII PPV in Lowell, MA. In fact, I’ve never even watched Ring of Honor TV. I bought my ticket figuring it would be a good show since there would be guys from New Japan (and as it turned out, CMLL too). So what were my impressions?
I skipped the pre-show match, so apologies to Silas Young, EVIL, and Will Ferrera. Young has a pretty cool looking finisher, though. I had an hour drive home from work and still wanted to hit my Lowell bar, a place called Dudley’s which is a nice dive but just like my pre-gaming for the NXT show, there is a flaw. They had my favorite beer of all time: Berkshire Brewing Company’s Coffeehouse Porter, but their tap has had some issues pouring it and it seems they are using a Nitro keg but with a regular tap. If you don’t use a Nitro tap, it takes forever to pour a glass. So I only had time for one.
I bought a balcony seat for less than what the iPPV stream cost, so I felt ahead of the game and it was on the aisle too but that proved to be a non-concern as I had plenty of room all around me and could stand for the entire show if I wanted. The only problem was that I couldn’t see the top of the entrance ramp and the video board. That was fine because the view of the ring was fantastic.
Bobby Fish (C) vs. Donovan Dijak (w/Prince Nana) for the ROH TV title
Bobby Fish strikes me as a pretty dumb name. Right out of the chute, I have trouble figuring out the face/heel structure here. Dijak is super over as a babyface for good reason: he was Chaotic’s champion for almost a year between 2014-15 and he has a pretty good look. My presumption was that Dijak is the heel since he has a manager and a rather massive entourage like he’s a heavyweight boxer from the early 90s. Fun start with Fish doing kicks to the legs and making fun of the one weakness in Dijak’s look; his legs are a bit skinny. Dijak does a lot of power stuff and moves around well, so I like his style. Love the vertical suplex where he just tosses Fish like he’s working Pike Place. (Seattle humor!) Crowd was really behind Dijak, but Fish wins with a choke hold to retain. Struck me as an odd finish to have, but then if Dijak is in fact a heel you are presenting more of the PPV audience.
Colt Cabana/Dalton Castle vs. All Night Express vs. War Machine vs. Shane Taylor/Keith Lee to determine #1 contender for tag titles
Hanson from War Machine is another local favorite. He was the opponent last summer at the minor league ballpark for Samoa Joe, who was making his final indy date before becoming exclusive to NXT.
Dalton Castle has quite an entrance, and I spent 80% of this match trying to figure out whether I liked him or not. I still don’t know. His look struck me as “Dean Ambrose if he was better looking and was more flamboyant” which is pretty contradictory. Cabana and CM Punk aren’t friendly anymore it seems, but Colt will always be Punk’s lackey to me. I keep his podcast on my iPod but I haven’t listened in so long because he’s been surpassed by so many other shows.
The match itself was fun, but very puzzling how it shifted back and forth from comedy to high spot back to comedy back to high spot. Taylor and Lee are huge dudes who popped me when they did dives out of the ring. The problem with that is that there were a lot of dives out of the ring, and each time you do one it is devalued and does the same to the ones earlier. Castle and Cabana got the win.
Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi
In seeking some guidance before this show, two different people told me this would be the match to watch. So a lot was expected here, even if afterward I heard a lot of “well that was their worst match together” and “didn’t you notice the botches?” Live and in realtime, I loved this match knowing nothing coming in.
Dragon Lee cartwheels out of hurricanrana which I liked a lot. Once again my mind wandered since Dragon Lee wears trunks with a mask. Most masked guys have long tights. I was trying to think of someone with that combo and came up blank unless you want to count CM Punk after he got his head shaved all those years ago. Which I don’t.
There was a tope and I could only think of Cesaro at the Clash of Champions nearly killing himself on the move. Kamaitachi kills Lee on the outside but it was hard for me to see it since it was in the near corner and the balcony overhang meant I couldn’t see half of it. As for the “botches”, there was a jump to the outside where Lee had to stand and wait for a period of time that was a bit too noticeable. But these guys took a lot of risks and it was enjoyable.
They did the “tired slugfest on their knees” spot a la Rich and Sawyer in the Last Battle of Atlanta and I hope that spot doesn’t get fucked out now because it was 1000% cool in a 1983 match that no one saw until last month. Some asshole tries a “fight forever” chant and I now think you should go to jail for a year if it’s anything less than a truly epic match.
Lee wins with a power bomb counter, which was the 2nd one in a short period of time so not the greatest finish in the world. It seems like I might have been very hard on this match but that’s probably a function of it being hard to keep up with in keeping notes on my phone, and general nitpicking. It’s easier to remember things that didn’t work. Crowd loved this match, FWIW, and I felt sorry for the next match.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Hangman Page
I ran to get more beer at the finish of the prior match, and missed 80% of this one.
Waiting in line, there was a guy with a Stan Hansen shirt at the front who was pretty proud to have that on and he accepted all the accolades. Bunch of us talked about how we felt bad for O’Reilly since the line was getting long, indicating that he would be working in front of a crowd that needed a break.
As I tend to do, I dropped some self-serving stuff about how I used to go ECW shows at the Wonderland Greyhound Park where I bought a bWo shirt that is now lost to history. We then talked about the RF Video tables at those events, where I bought some stuff as well then discussed how I am converting some VHS tapes to digital so I can maybe put them on YouTube. The other day, I found a tape labelled “The Best of Chris Benoit” and I asked if I should do that one. Because THAT will tell me who I am dealing with here. And of course they were like “aw come on man, don’t judge him by the last 48 hours of his life!” Wrestling fans, everyone!
From what I did see: I liked O’Reilly countering a sunset flip into an armbar. After O’Reilly gets the win, Page attacks him and Pillmanizes an arm on the ringpost. Bobby Fish runs out for the save, which to me was conspicuously late to the point where I almost expected him to decide to attack Kyle as well. Hey man, I don’t watch the TV! No idea what’s happening.
Briscoe Brothers and Toru Yano vs. A.C.H., KUSHIDA, and Jay White
This is the first round of a six man tag title tournament, which is funny because I can hardly think of a promotion that didn’t just abandon six man titles shortly after rolling them out. WWE could have done it in late 2013 with the Shield and the Wyatts but then what? Now you need three healthy guys instead of two.
As someone unfamiliar with most indy wrestling for the last decade, the Briscoes are “those guys WWE can’t or won’t sign because of their <ahem> unenlightened views on certain peoples”. Yano freaks me out because while his tights are funny, he is fucking PALE. Like Hercules pale. I don’t endorse tanning machines, but I’ll make an exception here. Apparently he’s a tag champ in NOAH right now, so he’s not just some comedy guy.
Really like A.C.H. a lot, and look forward to seeing how WWE might screw up with him. He’s probably the one who jumped out to me most on this card, at least in a traditional match.
Jay Lethal vs. Tetsuya Naito (w/EVIL)
Naito takes his sweet time and is flinging around the IWGP IC title belt, one that was held by Nakamura in the last few years. He gives no shits by just attacking the ring announcer for no reason as Lethal is coming down.
Lethal has a better look without the hair, but he isn’t what I expected for some reason. I knew him best as the guy who can do great impersonations of Flair and Savage, so maybe that’s why I expected him to be a bit more old school. Instead, he’s very much like a junior heavyweight. I figured a guy who was their champion and TV champ for so long would work a slightly different style. He does that springboard spot off the ropes way too much, like five times in this one.
Still an enjoyable match, and was shocked to see Lethal get the win. Mainly because I know the relationship between NJPW and ROH tends to be very one-sided on the booking end with the Japan guys always on top.
Adam Cole (C) vs. Michael Elgin for the ROH World Title
Cole doesn’t have the greatest look in the world and he didn’t wow me in this one. He’s supposed to be a heel, but it’s not like anyone cheered or booed him with any sort of gusto. But Elgin is probably even worse because he reminds me of Boris Zhukov because he’s got a huge head and the same facial hair. Was I just tired at this point? It’s funny because this was a bit more old school, which I just criticized Lethal a bit for NOT being. What do I want? I don’t know, but it’s not these two guys. Good looking brain buster to end it though.
LADDER WAR 6! Young Bucks vs Motor City Machine Guns vs The Addiction (C) for the ROH tag titles
This match represented a sort of duality: while I like to see an old school match, I do love a good spotfest from time to time. If I ever get around to writing about Heat Wave 98, I can share my love of that RVD/Sabu vs Hayabusa/Shinzaki match which was overflowing with table spots and botches. I also don’t know if I like the Bucks or not. The “cool heel” schtick can be annoying, but they do have a genuine love for wrestling and I have to respect that.
Daniels and Kazarian left it all out there and it was pretty freaking epic. To see both of them bloody was a real throwback. I was pulling for them and it really kind of made the MCMG a bit of an afterthought since the Bucks were doing all the cool stuff and the Addiction had all the sympathy. But those spots, my God. Nick getting tossed off the ladder to the outside which goes into a spike tombstone “Indytaker” was crazy ass shit. Another spot has one of the Bucks go through a table on the outside at about 166 miles per hour.
Lot of good spots with guys on the ladders that made sense from a timing perspective. Made for pretty good photos and I particularly liked when the belts would get batted and they would swing wildly from side to side.
Final Indytaker off a ladder onto Kazarian before the Bucks grabbed the gold for the win. This might not be something I hold dear 20 years from now, but it was fun as hell in the moment. Could have done without the run-in by Kamaitachi and Jay White, though, since it detracted from everything else going on.
I don’t have that emotional connection to any of this; I got out right at the bell because I wanted to get home even though I live only five minutes away.
Verdict: Fun show, glad I went to this instead of the TV taping the next day. Probably made better because I had room to spread out. That building is old and the seats are lousy. And also the balcony bathroom is very much like one you would remember from elementary/primary school. But still, I love wrestling in that building.