Solely based on the back of last week’s main event between Dalton Castle and Brody King, I am absolutely buzzing. Well, not SOLELY, but that was certainly the segment that stood high above the rest. That isn’t to say the rest of the show was sub-par; it was, in fact, quite enjoyable. However, Ilja Dragunov and Walter broke the curve for empty arena matches with their NXT UK Championship main event mere weeks ago. While my expectations in the empty arena will soon descend to a level of normalcy, for the time being, I want violence. Castle and King gave me sweet, glorious violence.
I think my primary issue with ROH in and around 2019 was that I wasn’t seeing much of what ROH was apparently known for… great wrestling. Yes, there were wrestling matches that were serviceable to good, but nothing that made me want to come back when there are so many more hours of great wrestling to watch from around the world. While I don’t expect every single match to be a distinctive banger, every episode of television should have a “head-turner”. Dalton Castle, Brody King, The Briscoes, Shane Taylor and Kenny King have all been booked in the previous two episodes of television. Last year, you didn’t see the biggest names on every episode of television. While it would be ridiculous of me to expect EVERY big name on EVERY episode, I would like to see a marquee match in the main event slot.
Once again, ROH are granting my wishes. I absolutely ADORE watching The Briscoes work; they are definitely one of my favorite tag teams and it feels so rare that I even get to see them wrestle. Well, The Briscoes are going to murder people today…and that is a good day. For the main event, we have Kenny King, a fellow member of La Faccion Ingobernables, with current ROH Television Champion Dragon Lee, facing off against former ROH Television Champion, Shane Taylor. This is intriguing because the show starts with an Ingobernables cold open stating La Faccion Ingobernables is going to turn ROH on its head. With brothers Dragon Lee and ROH World Champion, Rush being stuck in Mexico, could we see additions to the stable? A return of los hermanos? It’s a situation that has genuine main event implications, and I love it
SOS vs. The Briscoes
My introduction to SOS was in their six-man tag against The Briscoes and EC3; speaking of EC3, he happens to be watching this match from the commentary table, so I can only hope this leads to more interactions with The Briscoes. As far as SOS, they looked serviceable, but nothing spectacular. They certainly LOOK good flanking Shane Taylor and the aesthetics are that of a dominant stable.
I want The Briscoes to be an integral part of the ROH restart, because another reason I eventually fell off of the television product in 2018 and 2019 was a distinct lack of Briscoes. Mark Briscoe is genuinely one of the most entertaining in-ring performers on the planet, so I hope ROH does everything possible to keep the brothers relevant.
One of the most prominent positives in empty arena wrestling is the ease of which I can hear the wrestler banter. Even in a packed arena, you can tell that wrestlers are talking to each other in character. However, it centered more on body language than it did on explicit communication. Teams like the Briscoe Brothers are famous for their s*** talking, so it has been wonderful to see and hear the most talented wrestlers in the world utilize that skill in a different way this year.
The match itself is an absolute barrel of monkeys, compared to the six-man tag last week. SOS is moving around the ring with so much more quickness and everything looks deliberate. Obviously, I could say the exact same thing about The Briscoes, but that shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise. The Briscoes have been a tag team for twenty years; they work beautifully together and elevate everyone they are in the ring with. That’s not to say SOS can’t hold their own, because they have looked like a well-oiled machine as a tandem…which is impressive considering their total level of experience.
“There is honor in a slug-fest”, muses EC3. It’s no secret that the Briscoes are famous for their intensity…basically, they beat the absolute crap out of people. I was so impressed with SOS after this match, I would love to see more of them. I would especially love to see them in some more six-man tags alongside their leader, Shane Taylor. I enjoyed this tag FAR more than I anticipated I would. On the topic of future matches, a confrontation between Jay and EC3 leads me to believe we could see this as a match in our immediate future. Give me every bit of that.
Well, based on the post-match interview with The Briscoes, we are getting Jay and EC3 next week…seeing The Bricoes three times in just as many weeks? Wishes are being granted left and right, it seems.
Shane Taylor vs. Kenny King
I have said it every week since the inception of the Pure Championship Tournament, but the interview packages from every wrestler before they hit the ring for the first time since lockdown have been absolutely phenomenal. In this particular case, King and Taylor not only introduce potential new viewers to their characters and disposition, but also to their history together as faction members in The Rebellion. Currently, King and Taylor are members of different and admittedly more prominent factions. While Taylor is the leader of his OWN faction, Kenny King is a man that Taylor has never been able to defeat and his veteran presence still looms large over the physically much larger Shane Taylor. While Kenny King was referring to a certain level of mutual respect, Taylor only cares about one thing… winning.
While Kenny started the match by looking like somewhat of a demigod, Taylor hits King with a right hand that leads to Caprice Coleman letting out a sound I thought only Western Australian rodents were able to make…it was beyond what I would call a “squeal”. Shane Taylor has improved so significantly over the course of the previous two years. He has evolved into a hybrid powerhouse that looks as though he could hang with absolutely anyone right now. While King’s offense looks devastating in a professional wrestling sort of way, Taylor looks like he is beating someone up out behind the bar. However, while Taylor COULD just beat you to death with his hands, he decidedly makes it worse with explosive, high impact moves.
Kenny King reminded all of us why Faccion Ingobernables is an extremely important group in the canon of ROH; every one of those wrestlers is world-class, but the headline of this match was Shane Taylor getting a dominant victory over the man who was so obviously the elder statesman. Once again, the television main event felt just as it should—a match worked to a very high standard with far-reaching implications at the top of the card. On an hour-long episode of wrestling television, it is imperative to have one match that you will remember going into next week. If next week’s main event is Jay Briscoe going up against EC3, then the positive trend looks to continue. So many of my concerns about the episodic nature of ROH are washing away with each passing week. I know this show doesn’t have the Young Bucks, Adam Cole, Hiromu Takahashi, Kushida, Cody Rhodes, Tetsuya Naito and others that made it one of the most important products from 2015 to 2018, but everyone needs to give this show a chance because it feels like ROH is turning a difficult corner in a major way.