ROH Field of Honor 2014
With the future of Impact Wrestling in question, Ring of Honor’s debut at the MCU Park in Brooklyn needed to be something special. This was the official uprooting of TNA’s Basebrawl and ROH had to captivate the fans and with pun fully intended, hit this one out of the park. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but that is not to say it was all bad. While some outside forces such as drunken fans causing distractions took away some of the special feeling a great crowd can create on an event, the in ring product represented some of the best and worst of the current ROH product. The usage of outside interference or “international” objects overshadowed almost every match and while this is a tropic heel tool, using it too much can sometimes be an even worse distraction.
This show had a lot of what felt like filler. While I’ve spoken and podcasted with people who were at the event, their enthusiasm unfortunately did not stay with me while I viewed this on DVD. But maybe we should start with the beginning as it was probably one of the high points of my excitement for this show.
Field of Honor opened with a cage match for the ROH TV Title between Matt Taven and Jay Lethal, two men who have fought each other long and hard over the beginning months of 2014 and this was supposed to be the end of their feud. The stipulation being that with all the interference from Truth and Seleziya Sparx, a cage would be able to keep them out. Perhaps I protest too much, but when the booking renders that gimmick pointless, the action in the ring sometimes becomes secondary and that probably epitomizes what was wrong with this event. Taven and Lethal had a good cage match. Lots of smashing against the cage walls, some good back and forth action, and of course the obligatory superfly splash from the top of the cage for an almost feel good moment. Truth Martini was able to stop the count after that spectacular moment. This along with Sparx climbing the side of the cage to distract Taven followed by Taven being hit with the door, hit with the TV belt and hit by the Lethal Injection finisher really started the night off poorly. Why should I take the cage match seriously if it didn’t actually help the wrestler who deserved justice? Post match we saw Taven in the locker room clearly perturbed by his loss and saying that there wasn’t anything left. His departure would soon follow. At least we got some storyline driven explanation there.
The next two matches were nothing but filler for time. A semi-good match between Takaaki Watanabe and Mark Briscoe was just fine. Almost everything you would expect from the two of them was on display but Watanabe didn’t display anything that made me want to see more of him and Mark Briscoe’s schtick in the ring is getting plenty old. The finish came after a froggy bow and I almost forgot that the match even occurred while I wrote this. The tag match afterwards should have been fun and comedic, except for the fact that it went on for about five minutes too long. It was the Brutal Burgers of ‘Brutal’ Bob Evans and Cheeseburger against the new tandem of Moose and RD Evans whose streak was on the line. The context of the match made sense, Evans wanted take all the glory, almost to his detriment, while Moose grew more and more irritated with being left on the apron. When Moose was able to make an impact in the ring, it was good for his level of experience. Cheeseburger and Bob tried to make him look like the monster he should be and after both men were destroyed by him, Evans swooped in and stole the victory much to Moose’s dismay. But the match felt like it went thirty minutes of what should have been a squash. While the streak continues, I certainly hope we don’t see long matches like this again until Evans and Moose can really put something together.
Rocky Romero faced Michael Bennett in what was a fine match except it gave us another wonky finish where Maria got involved in the end and helped Bennett win. Yes, I know. This is typical heel/valet material. And the match was good up til that point. Bennett was able to use his power and surprising speed against the smaller Romero whose hybrid lucha style was hard to combat. While I don’t think all matches need to end cleanly, I would think that Romero’s guile should have been able to withstand Maria’s distraction, or maybe not. He is after all just a man. Bennett got the win here with his speak/TKKO combo. Good in ring action, but another distraction finish.
The Decade continued their dominance in ROH after Raymond Rowe was injured in a motorcycle accident and the match had to be changed to the Decade facing three students, Will Ferrera, Johnny Knockout, and Ken Phoenix. All three students looked good, particularly Ferrera who hopefully will get more time on the main roster. But experience generally beats youth and it was no different here. The match was fine, even exciting at some points. But after the All Seeing Eye, the Decade reigned supreme. The post match beat down and save from Hanson also provided some more storyline progression and hopefully we’ll get the War Machine/Decade match down the line.
I was really looking forward to the next two matches, but unfortunately both were plagued with different issues that caused them to be less interesting going out than they were coming in. Tommaso Ciampa and Silas Young, two men who I think should be on the borderline of main event talents in ROH had a good match peppered with just enough stiff shots that should entertain most ROH fans. While I can’t say they have great chemistry in the ring, I thought the match was good up until the end where Silas’s impatience forced him to introduce chairs and ring bells into the match. While this was a set up for Ciampa’s rage against the ROH officials, it still felt unnecessary. Young threw chairs into the ring which forced Paul Turner to be distracted enough for Young to hit Ciampa with the bell for the pinfall. Good in ring action, but another distraction finish. See a pattern? The post match Ciampa anger boiling over the top against the refs because of the loss made sense but I think the booking of the finish stole what could have been a solid to really great match that this show needed.
The next match also had issues but most of it was out of the talent’s control. ACH versus Cedric Alexander was nowhere near the great match they had in PWG, but even if it had been, most of the crowd wouldn’t have seen it as they were too distracted or drunk, or both, to notice. I knew from ROH aficionados Ari Berenstein and Chris Miccio that there were crowd issues at this event, but the level that they distracted from this match was unforgivable. The hard cam shot clearly caught most of it in the background which was distracting enough, but the talents in the ring also at times were caught off guard as it was clear they set up rest holds and movements so they could take a glimpse as to what was going on in the crowd. The finish came after what was a botched michinoku driver from Cedric to ACH. ACH landed very high on his head and neck and after the pinfall there was obvious worry from the ref and Alexander. Luckily everything has turned out well but the distracting crowd mixed with this botched finish made this match subpar to what I would have normally expected and received. I give both men a lot of credit though as several times due to some great in ring action they got the attention back on the match and that alone is a signal as to how talented both men are.
The ROH Tag Title match between the Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) and reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) was good. Unfortunately their match from Best In The World was probably still fresh in my mind and it seemed almost like a take two with very little variation. All four men are obviously talented and what they gave the crowd was good. Good back and forth coupled with submission work that made sense despite being reminiscent of what happened at BITW (working over Frankie’s arm over and over) but this time we didn’t get a unique sequence to finish the match. We got the Decade interfering which the ref didn’t call a DQ even though it would have been hard to miss them throwing Daniels into the steel ring post. While this furthered the storyline between the Decade and Addiction, well I think you know how I would have ended this sentence by now.
Then came the main event. Finally a match that for me lived up to what it should have been. A four way for the ROH World Title pitting Michael Elgin defending against Jay Briscoe, Adam Cole, and then IWGP Champion AJ Styles. The in ring action told a complete story and was hot and heavy from the start. Adam Cole was the lone heel against three men who all hated him for different reasons. Elgin was the defending Champion who had to stop almost all the pinfalls to keep his title reign intact. There was also a good dichotomy of action as the men paired off against respective enemies. Briscoe and AJ Styles were kept relatively strong as when they faced each other it was almost always on an equal footing with neither man really gaining an advantage while Elgin was able to interfere and prove his brute strength could be more than formidable against either man. Cole’s guile and speed allowed him to get in some strikes where he could and even had a moment where he was going toe-to-toe with AJ Styles who I would believe is perceived as the best in-ring guy of the four. Cole’s feud with Elgin was still harkened to as Cole tried time and time to get the better of the big man but usually fell to his power such as Elgin’s samoan drop/last call combo with Cole and Briscoe or when Cole was ultimately pinned after Elgin just got out the way of his Panama Destroyer to hit the backfist/bucklebomb/Elgin bomb finish. This match certainly delivered and the storylines told within will probably hold up with future ROH matches. Definitely a strong way to end what wasn’t the best show.
Overall I think this show deserves a mild recommendation on account that the in ring action is worth checking out with the caveat being the finishes are leading somewhere down the line, hopefully. It was a historic moment for ROH to debut in Brooklyn, albeit they may rethink how much alcohol they will allow next time as it was a clear contributor to a bad crowd unlike in other promotions. The main event is worth checking out for any ROH fan. As I said before, this was the best and worst of the current ROH product. Luckily Steve Corino and Joe Dombrowski on commentary kept me entertained and explained a lot of the storyline elements.