On 19th November, Ring of Honor headed to Leicester, England for the very first time for the stop two of the Reach for the Sky Tour at the Leicester Community Sports Arena. The show was main event by The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) defending the World Tag Team Championships against "The Villain" Marty Scurll & World Television Champion Will Ospreay, whilst old rivals reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) and The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) met two on two for the first time in two years and World Champion Adam Cole was opposite Chris Sabin. The likes of The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian), Alex Shelley, Joe Hendry, Dalton Castle and Lio Rush were all featured on the undercard.
Venue & Crowd - It was my first time at the Leicester Community Sports Arena and I was impressed with the venue itself, which had a great set-up, but it was probably a little too big for this particular event. Whilst there was a relatively sizable crowd, around half of the bleachers were covered and there was plenty of empty seats. Leicester seemed like a slightly odd choice when only running three shows in England and perhaps the event would have drawn better in Birmingham. The crowd on hand though was a lively and appreciative bunch for the most of the event and I get the feeling that this may have been many people's first ever show, as a lot of the earlier matches were getting big pops for relatively simple things. There were a few people heckling at points, which ranged from mildly funny to rude and then homophobic. There's no place for that at wrestling show or anywhere else.
The main event saw The Young Bucks retain their World Tag Team Champions over World Television Champion Will Ospreay and "The Villain" in a must-see spectacular. This match could have easily been a let down, because fan expectations were so high. I never should have doubted these four gentleman as they delivered one of the silliest spectacles that I've seen this year. This was advertised as a "Dream Match" and it had pretty much everything that you'd want to see as the four personalities collided. There were superkicks from Nick and Matt, there was faux superkicks and villainous antics from Marty and there was flips and tricks from Will. That's is, of course, a horrendous over simplification of how this match played out, because there was so much more that went into it, but it was on these pre-established traits that the rest of the match would orbit around. All the trademark moments that one would expect from the two teams came flying out at breakneck speed, in a style that one might associate more with Reseda, California than Leicester, East Midlands!
The final stretch of the contest brought together a number of elements that had been introduced throughout the bout as the Young Bucks went for their Meltzer Driver on Scurll for the second time in the match, with Ospreay managing to meet a Jackson on the top rope, but instead of the forearm that The Aerial Assassin used earlier in the match, he pulled out a rana, that sent the Jackson straight into the Meltzer Driver. Like what the fuck? How does that even happen? These guys are made of magic or some shit. If that description doesn't make much sense it's probably because it's not actually physically possible and it was a mass hallucination. That's kind of how I felt watching this entire match. Like none of what these four blokes did was actual real. Too much silliness. How? This was just a glimpse at the potential of Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay in ROH. Imagine what kind of stuff they'll be able to do once the Villain and Aerial Assassin characters are firmly entrenched within the storytelling potential that the companies set-up allows for.
reDRagon remained The Briscoes bogie team as Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly walked out victorious in the first 2v2 meeting between the teams in almost two years. This was a good solid, face v face tag encounter, that went twenty minutes and never outstayed it's welcome. After some initial comedy from Fish bumping off Mark's redneck kung-fu, the match settled into a nice pace that displayed a number of different styles that the four are capable of. There was hard strikes, smooth transitions, some scrappy brawling and some tough submission work. These two teams could have good matches with each other with their eyes closed and with an arm or two tied behind their back. There's clearly a level of understanding between all four, best seen in the swift sequence between Mark and O'Reilly, where Jay came seemingly out of nowhere with a Death Valley Driver.
Where the match didn't quite reach it's full potential for me was that as soon as things seemed to be heading into the next gear, that sense of momentum that the contest had was halted because The Young Bucks were out on the entrance ramp. It was cool to see these shows get brought into the ongoing stories of the promotion, as Young Bucks and The Briscoes will clash on 2nd December with the straps on the line, but there's no doubt that a more exciting finishing stretch could have been created without the distraction. That lack of top gear held the match back from living up to the potential that I think many had expected it to cash in on. Twenty minutes is a long time to invest into a contest that features all the important action in it's last few minutes and it was hard not to come away from this feeling like it could have been much more than it was.
Adam Cole successfully defended the World Championship against Chris Sabin in a paint-by-numbers clash, that displayed both just well enough to satisfy. The opening exchange perhaps offered the best action of the contest as the pair went back and forth in a number of mirror image spots that concluded with a pair of enziguiris. From there the match came along nicely, taking stops at Cole's Figure Four Leg Lock and rolling through a couple of near falls, but nothing seemed to stay long to create an overall arc for the bout, beyond that initial exchange. There were hints that it could move onto another level, with a gear changing sequence of superkicks and lariats and both men got a solid near fall on the other as Sabin came close with Cradle Shock, whilst Cole seemed to have things done and dusted with a Panama Sunrise.
There was, of course, one problem that the pair were always going to struggle to overcome and that was that Cole was clearly never going to lose, especially with the title on the line. When you've got a crowd as savvy as the ROH audience tends to be, that can take a little bit of the energy out of an audience and that can in turn take a little bit of energy out of the match itself. Sabin hasn't had the most fruitful time as a singles competitor in ROH lately, losing his last three singles bouts to Frankie Kazarian, Colt Cabana and Jay Lethal, so it was always clear that this was nothing but a "warm-up" bout for Cole's clash with Lethal in London the next night. Whilst the story managed to wrap itself up nicely, with Cole having to resort to a low blow to set up his victory with the Last Shot, I never felt like I could fully buy into it and therefore always felt at least one step removed from what was going on in the ring.
The Addiction's victory over the make-shift tandem of Dalton Castle and Delirious lead me to write such notes as "Just Fun" and "Japes" and that probably tells you how this match went down. The clash wouldn't have looked out of place on an Attack! Pro Wrestling show as Daniels, Kazarian, Castle, Delirious and even referee Todd Sinclair got involved in some mad chicanery, that the crowd ate it up. Seeing Sinclair throwing out a hip toss felt even more bizarre, because it came from a company like ROH, which isn't particularly known for it's funnies. Castle attempting to instigate fisticuffs by shouting "Fight. Fight. Fight" as if on a primary school playground popped me in a place I didn't know it was possible to be popped. However, when things did get more serious, the athletic performance level was there to back up the comedic performance level. Castle's hot tag sequence and the double teams from The Addiction were just the final flurry that the match needed with the wonderful Best Meltzer Ever (Double jump moonsault spike kneeling reverse piledriver) acting as the proverbial cherry.
In the opener, Jay White remained undefeated one on one with a victory over newcomer Joe Hendry, in a solid, yet unspectacular encounter. After the initial excitement of Hendry's theme getting an ROH remix, the clash struggled to grip me throughout it's earlier exchanges and whilst nothing was particularly bad, there was nothing to get the crowd pumped up. I felt like this match needed someone to grab hold of it and create a sense of direction for it. The pair remained more or less babyfaces throughout the entire contest and whilst there were glimpses of Hendry's overbearing "Local Hero" character coming through, this match was in desperate need of someone to take control and grab the audience. Things picked up towards the finish, with White hitting a tasty suicide dive and as well as Hendry catching White coming off the top rope into Freak of Nature (Fallaway Slam). There's potential for these two have a better match in a different environment, with both more settled into their ROH roles, but whilst it was probably a bit too long and out of place as the opener, there's no doubt that this was a decent, watchable bout, by two competitors who will only continue to grow over the next few years.
Jay Lethal was victorious over Alex Shelley in a good match, that was the first meeting between the two since 2009. It was surprisingly Lethal's first victory over Shelley in ROH, after Shelley won the previous two bouts in 2004. The bout was structured well, with Lethal constantly attempting to hit a suicide dive, with Shelley always having an answer and eventual being able to take complete control of the match. The build towards that move was some of the best use I've seen of the move, especially considering that there were plenty others across the rest of the evening. The two looked extremely comfortable in the ring together, perhaps too much so as there were time where it felt like Lethal and Shelley were quite happy to go through the motions here. When you've got two men as talented and experienced as Lethal and Shelley, that still produces an enjoyable contest, but I definitely got the feeling this wasn't the best effort from either.
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Donavon Dijak's victory over Lio Rush, was a ridiculous match, that got the crowd to their feet after ten minutes of excitement and innovation. This was the best match that I've seen out of either man, as they took the power v speed dynamic and ran with it. Despite the lighting rig trying it's best to take the spotlight (geddit?) from them, Rush and Dijak put together some breath taking sequences, whilst also showing that they had the simple stuff on a lock as well. Dijak lobbing Rush around the ring was almost as entertaining as Rush's speedy spots! The exploration of the big man v small man trope was where the match took things to the next level, as Dijak showed he was prepared to take to the sky with a stunning moonsault to the outside, whilst Rush went toe to toe with Dijak on the apron and then hit a ridiculous Spanish Fly off the apron! Having Rush attempt to beat the man who was over a foot taller than him by countout was an astute piece of booking. I feel like everyone in the audience came away with a higher regard for both men than they had when they walked in. If you get the chance to see this, do it.
Before the Delirious/Castle v The Addiction match got underway, there was some comedy japes from everyone involved as Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian attempted to get Delirious to join their stable, by offering a pair of shoes. This was five minutes of pure wonderfulness as the foursome molded their gimmicks together to create some laugh out loud comedy. The Addiction played their part down to a tee, as Delirious uttered non-nonsensical replies and the pair attempted to translate. By the end of the exchange, that concluded with Castle uttering the immortal line "Shoes? Where we're going we don't need shoes", the match between the two teams felt more important than it had before hand and everyone involved had had a jolly good time. Can't complain with that!
ATPW Scale Rating - 7.05/10
Beyond perhaps appearances from ACH or War Machine this event had pretty much every ROH talent that I wanted to see on it, so that's always going to be a major positive. In terms of wrestling quality, the main event was straight up silly and managed to live up to expecations, whilst Donavon Dijak v Lio Rush seemed to take everyone by surprise also. The Castle/Delirious v The Addiction contest offered something completely different, but remained entertaining throughout. For the most part, the rest of the card produced some good action, but mainly struggled to either live up to expectation and didn't hit the top level that you'd expect from of the individuals involved.
In A Sentence - A brilliant main event, a sleeper classic and some entertaining comedy surrounded by a lot of good, but ultimately forgettable wrestling.
Match of the Night - Young Bucks v Scurll/Ospreay
Review - James Marston