Last weekend was ROH’s 13th anniversary show and as I do every few months, I took it as an opportunity to leap back into the crazy world of independent wrestling and check out how they are getting on. Now, obviously this does mean I am only a casual viewer, I tend to be aware of what is going on in ROH, but I’m not a die-hard and therefore my ability to comment on storylines is limited.
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the wrestling and if there is one place where Ring Of Honor has always knocked the ball out of the park, it is in the wrestling. That hasn’t changed and the 13th anniversary show had a little bit of everything. If you want to watch The Young Bucks and Red Dragon wrestling at a million miles per hour and doing all those awesome moves you used to dream of doing as a kid, you can, and you probably should, because if you can find a more entertaining wrestling match this year, I will be surprised and odds are it will probably include The Young Bucks anyway. However, if you’re more traditional in your wrestling, you can get that here too. Roderick Strong and BJ Whitmer put on a solid wrestling bout, while AJ Styles’ master vs up and comer confrontation with ACH was also fantastic. Basically, when it comes to wrestling, ROH never fails and if that is all you want, then leap in now.
The problem is, there are still moments that make you question whether ROH thinks the wrestling is enough. This moment specifically came in the main event, which had a finish that TNA would have been proud of . Ref bumps, run ins and all that shebang came together to create a convoluted mess of a finish and it is enough to make anyone groan. It’s one of several (dare I say it) sports entertainment moments that I have seen creeping into ROH programming in recent times and quite frankly I could do without it.
Something that moves away from that sports entertainment vibe, is the commentary and as much as I occasionally don’t like Kevin Kelly’s style, he and Steve Corino get to call these matches like they are an actual sporting event. Unlike the rubbish generally spouted on WWE TV. Little touches, like them discussing the ring having a different type of ropes to the standard ROH set up, make everything feel a bit more real and we can only dream of a day when WWE and TNA allow their commentators to do the same thing.
Sadly, the rest of the production is still lacking. The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Vegas, where the event was staged, is I’m sure very nice. But ROH just doesn’t make it look like it. It’s too dark and it never leaves behind that bingo hall mentality that the show has been accused of in the past. Issues with sound don’t help things and moments like Rocky Romero joining the commentary team and not having a working microphone, just screams second-rate. I get it, ROH doesn’t have the same budget as WWE, it doesn’t even have a fraction of it, but it has to be possible to hide that better than they do. Even little things like turning the music up a bit for wrestlers entrances, would make a world of difference. As things stand, it all just leads to it feeling a bit flat.
Despite these problems, this show is well worth watching. ROH are still better than TNA at playing to their strengths. They know that they have the best tag division in the game right now and they are not afraid to use it. In fact, their tag titles feel just as important, if not more important, than their world title. A similar thing can be said about the ROH TV Title, which was defended by Jay Lethal against Alberto Del Patron. While Alberto losing to a book shot is not incredibly inventive. It is, in the whole, a great use of the former WWE guy in legitimising that title and it feels ten times more important than any other secondary title in America.
What makes ROH stand out, is that it still feels cool. Unlike WWE, which makes me cringe whenever people who don’t watch wrestling see a bit of, ROH comes across like something exciting and fun. It’s NXT without the budget. The wrestling is spot on and with the likes of AJ Styles, The Young Bucks, Red Dragon and the returning Samoa Joe, they have guys that you want to watch. So despite all the problems, I still urge you to give ROH a go if you haven’t, because if you watch wrestling for the wrestling, it will tickle all the right spots.