Despite ROH Being Awful, Hawke Found 37 Good ROH Matches From 2016 and Ranked Them
Ring of Honor has slowly but surely become the new TNA over the course of the last seven years. They are awful. Much like TNA though, they still produce some good wrestling. Here are the 37 best matches from ROH in 2016.
35. Donovan Dijak vs. Cedric Alexander -5/14/2016
This was a battle of two super-talented guys that have somehow been completely undermined by the ROH brain trust while guys like Adam Cole, Mike Bennett, Matt Taven, Adam Page, etc. get chance after chance to prove how much they are unworthy of the pushes they receive.
This was Cedric’s final ROH match for the time being as he moves on to WWN and NXT. Naturally, they have the commentary team bury him for the duration of the match for not living up to his potential. Then they of course cut away from the scene before the crowd can send Cedric off properly. This is the ROH we are stuck with, everyone. They fucking suck.
The match was perfectly fine and pretty fun to watch. It suffered from getting a poor reaction from the crowd. That should not be surprising given how poorly these two have been pushed but whatever. Time to move on. Thank you, Cedric. Dijak won cleanly with Feast Your Eyes. (***1/4)
28. Donovan Dijak vs. Jason Kincaid – 6/25/2016
This was a simple case two super talented and hungry wrestlers doing whatever it took to get over and put on a show. They did a bunch of shit and basically just made sure that they stood out. ROH needs to be a lot more this and a lot less whatever Kevin Jelly and Delirious think works. Find a bunch of hungry talents and let them loose. For the love of god. It’s just more interesting and more fun for all involved. (***1/4)
25. Matt Sydal vs. Adam Cole – 2/6/2016
The Ring of Honor ten-minute, television formula is so fucking strong that even Adam Cole can have good matches within its confines. That is truly impressive. There was good energy. It didn’t feel like time was being wasted. There was fun action. We got a handful of nifty moments and sequences. Sydal was great. Cole was there. Sydal even got to win! ROH is an amazing party! (***1/4)
23. Lio Rush vs. Jonathan Gresham – 10/29/2016
These two did not really have the time to settle into a match on the level of their MOTYC from back in September, but they still managed to put on a very entertaining and satisfying television match. Lio tried to protect his arm early and even managed to block some initial attempts at an arm drag from Gresham. However, Gresham was able eventually to target the arm for a bit and that gave him control. Rush fought back though and eventually won with an elbow drop following two Rush Hours. Good stuff. (***1/4)
16. Adam Page vs. Jay Briscoe – 8/19/2016
This was a No DQ match.
Channeling the commitment to Mike Bennett and Matt Taven from years past, ROH has been really committed to ensuring Adam Page is a part of their programming. While he has been a solid worker, the consistency of his push has mostly been unwarranted by any objective standard. WITH ALL THAT SAID, Page has absolutely delivered in some matches, and he seems to be a very good No DQ brawler. This was yet another success in that department. Using a rare Jay Briscoe singles loss on Page was questionable at best obviously. However, ROH might as well push anyone to the main event who has not been there before. That of course also won’t happen with Paige, but this theoretically accomplished that. (***1/2)
15. Kamaitachi vs. Angel de Oro vs. ACH vs. Nick Jackson – 10/14/2016
ROH’s record on midcard matches in 2016 has been undeniably strong. It gives the wrestlers an opportunity to work hard without having to work too hard, and the wrestlers have been shining in that situation time and time again. This one worked due to the great action, creativity, and near-electric atmosphere for what happened in the ring. Everyone though had a fire lit under their ass here for reasons that defy reason. (***1/2)
13. The Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson) vs. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) vs. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Kazarian) – 9/30/2016
This was a LADDER WAR for The Addiction’s ROH World Tag Team Championship.
This was fun ladder match that both delivered on the spectacle it needed to be while also serving as a morbid reminder of what a waste of bodily damage this was for all involved (besides the Guns who managed to do very little and even got to mysteriously disappear for the final 23% of the match).
For a 20+ minute match, they basically managed to keep it entertaining all the way through. Some sequences in the first eight minutes felt a bit too choreographed and/or obligatory, but they were not terribly insulting all things considered. From there, the match picked up in insanity and dangerous stuff. That of course was a double-edged sword.
Seeing older (and in some cases incredibly broken) wrestlers do this shit for Ring of Honor in 2016 was depressing though. This company once tried to be the cream of the crop and to be something worth sacrificing your body for in the name of being great. ROH is no longer that though. ROH is TNA, and TNA has never been something anyone should sacrifice anything for ever.
Christopher Daniels in particular went beyond the call of duty for this match for reasons that are not entirely clear (but may reveal themselves in the end). Fixing ROH is going to have to be a top-down initiative and not something that happens after the roster takes too many dumb bumps during a meaningless ladder match. (***1/2)
10. Jonathan Gresham & Adam Page vs. Cedric Alexander & BJ Whitmer – 3/12/2016
This would be a very good example of two teams (and irregular teams at that) putting in some creativity to make an undercard tag match get over and come off like a bigger deal.
There was a hot pre-match brawl that got the fans sucked in. They did a solid heat segment that was right to the point and did not waste time. They then did a hot tag/comeback that had some cool sequences and well-timed highspots to make sure fans genuinely got excited for the match.
No one could possibly fucking care about the Adam Page/BJ Whitmer feud as it’s presented in ROH. Smart work here though proved you can get some successful matches from it.
Cedric Alexander has been buried beyond belief in the past year, and Jonathan Gresham has been treated like a goober by the company. You would never know that after watching this match. Why? SMART FUCKING WORK.
I can’t believe this combo of guys in ROH outworks everyone in the company, but it’s not the first time that it’s happened. Kudos to them. Page caught Cedric’s attempt for the Mochizuki corner kick and reversed it into a reverse piledriver. (***1/2)
9. Cheeseburger & The Briscoes vs. Moose & War Machine – 3/12/2016
The best part of this match was how much it was laid out just to specifically troll Allan Blackstock. Just a great use of resources.
Anyway, this match featured all six guys working hard (particularly Mark who has clearly turned it on again) and putting together loads of fun sequences. They took full advantage of Cheeseburger being involved and doing a shticky spots involving the size differential. It’s a tricky line to walk of course, and it could come off contrived. It worked here though and made the match better. This was very good. Moose won after spearing Cheeseburger. (***3/4)
8. Lio Rush & Jay White vs. The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) – 8/20/2016
The ROH TV sprint formula is so money. The only way it could be ruined was if ROH learned that this was the best thing they produced these days and then tried to turn it into a heavily hyped thing. All four guys went out there and went nuts for the whole match. The Briscoes perfectly played being savvy veterans while also keeping up with the pace with the youngins’. Rush and White brought their game and worked as if they had something to prove as characters and wrestlers. It was delightful. While ROH may be terrible in many important ways, matches like this prove that the company actually still produces quite a bit of fun wrestling by accident. Please don’t tell them. Briscoes won cleanly with the Doomsday Device. (***3/4)
7. Lio Rush vs. Dalton Castle vs. Moose vs. Michael Elgin -5/14/2016
When the four-way/six-way/whatever matches work, they work really well. Everyone in this one came off well, worked hard, and seemed like a genuinely over performer. They did a great job of timing the action so that it never let up while simultaneously allowing it to breathe so each big spot could make an impact. I enjoyed this a ton live and possibly enjoyed it even more on tape. Yay, wrestling. Castle won with the bangerang on Rush. (***3/4)
6. Kamaitachi vs. Angel de Oro – 10/15/2016
You have to love two guys ROH gives no fucks about going out there and producing a super fun match that ROH will pretend never happened so that they can tell their stories with the stale wrestlers who cannot have good matches on a consistent basis anymore. This is how a company dies. You let your genuinely interesting wrestlers die in the midcard show after show while insisting on only pushing certain guys regularly up top no matter how little people care about them or how little talent is left in them. Get your shit together. (Oro did well early. Kamaitachi sunset flip powerbombed to the floor. Oro did an awesome comeback. Kamaitachi attacked the mask. Finish. Yay, wrestling!) (***3/4)
5. Donovan Dijak vs. Trent? – 6/12/2016
Take two talented and motivated professional wrestlers. Give them a compact time period in which to work. Then watch as an incredibly fun match happens! Booking wrestling is incredibly hard folks, but it’s great to see ROH pull it off every once in a while.
The character dynamics were on point. Dijak takes everything seriously because he has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove himself. Trent? is a goofball who turns it on when he needs to do it. He very quickly discovered here that he needed to do it.
The action was super fun, paced well, and the bigger spots were spaced out to have more impact. Very good job, everyone! Dijak won with a nasty chokebreaker. (***3/4)
4. Kamaitachi vs. Dragon Lee – 9/30/2016
These two are great and employ one of the most fun stories wrestlers can tell: they do the most dangerous stuff possible in an attempt to kill their opponent even if it means taking their own lives, too. It just leads to total insanity and recklessness in the best way possible.
There is a fine line between being spotty for the sake of being spotty and then employing big spots to tell a story. These two always end up on the right side of that issue, and it’s not even really close.
Should anyone wrestle this way? Probably not. It can’t be good for your health. If you’re going to do it though, do it right like these guys. This was great. Dragon Lee won obviously. Kevin Kelly even correctly called the Phoenix-plex. (****)
Read all of my Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi reviews.
3. Donovan Dijak vs. Lio Rush vs. Kamaitachi vs. Jay White – 8/19/2016
Fun. This was fun. In Ring of Honor. It would be surprising to hear such a thing if you didn’t know who was in the match. These are four of the most talented and enjoyable performers ROH has had for a couple of years. While it makes some sense to not go ALL in on White and Kamaitachi given their temporary roster status, the fact that Dijak and Rush are not two of the very top guys in ROH right now speaks incredibly unfavorably of their booking and talent evaluation process. Oh well. This match fucking ruled. Everyone go watch it. It reminded me of the Ricochet/Arik Cannon/Chuck Taylor/Adam Cole DGUSA match from 2010. Dijak won after Feast Your Eyes on Rush. (****)
2. Lio Rush vs. Jay Lethal – 4/1/2016
This was for Lethal’s ROH World Championship.
Jay Lethal is a very inconsistent worker (unless you count his constant inconsistency as being consistent), but he occasionally delivers a performance that makes you wonder how high his ceiling might be in the right circumstances. His performance against AJ Styles at Final Battle 2015 was one such performance, and he had another one right here against Lio Rush.
Lethal perfectly balanced not treating Lio Rush like a genuine threat while simultaneously avoiding treating the match like a joke. This set an appropriate and compelling tone. Combining that with a fantastic performance from Rush, and we got a genuine treat of a match.
The key to the in-ring action was that they timed Rush’s comebacks really well. Rush progressively got more and more offense in until it seemed like he had a legitimate chance to win.
Rush’s resilience was not just kept to the physical action though; he also refused to put up with Lethal’s shit and endeared himself to the crowd as a result. This was hopefully a career-making performance for him (in the sense that he should receive a major ROH push and then get signed to NXT).
The end came with Rush going for the One-Man Spanish Fly only for Lethal to reverse it into a diving cutter. It was significant because Lethal could not connect on the Lethal Injection earlier. Lethal then finally connected on it after that and won cleanly. Great match.
There was of course an issue with the match because it is ROH, and they are the new TNA. Taeler Hendrix tried to distract Rush at one point. She did this by trying to seduce him. This was not in the comedic vein of Maria, but it was a seduction attempt nonetheless. Rush resisted the urge to kiss someone (we could only assume he barely knows) while in the middle of his job. To make sure though that nobody doubted his masculinity and sexual desires, he slapped Taeler on the ass. This shit is fucking dumb, tired, and insidious. Get this shit out of my fucking wrestling. It did not *ruin* the match for me, but I really did not like it. (****)
1. Lio Rush vs. Jonathan Gresham – 9/24/2016
This match. Holy fuck. THIS fucking match. This was some goddamn fucking fantastic professional wrestling. It had just about everything you would want from professional wrestling in 2016.
The first couple of minutes featured the best feeling-out-process in what seems like a century. Instead of jerking off in the ring, they used it to start their story.
Gresham is normally quicker than his opponents. He moves so crisply that he can get a step ahead of just about anyone he faces in the squared circle. Gresham couldn’t do that here on the mat so he tested the waters on seeing if he had a strength advantage and also began to target Rush’s left arm.
Rush, knowing that his injured arm could not withstand too much damage, then went right back to speed advantage, and he got a step or two ahead of Gresham. Gresham decisively and with precision went right back after the taped-up arm because he knew he would lose a speed battle with Rush.
From there, Gresham continuously went after the arm. He did it all in this brilliant manner where he did a bunch of basic stuff like an ARM DRAG, but you knew it meant more here. Gresham got a little cocky after each shot at the arm, and Rush sold every move targeting his arm well.
Gresham did all of this with a calm confidence that was incredibly compelling. His calmness did not turn into laziness (like a certain lad named Zack) or without taking away the sense of urgency. Instead, he just moved about the ring like it was HIS ring. It’s a near-undefinable quality that only a few wrestlers can convey convincingly.
Rush knew he could not get too far behind so he used an opening to exploit his quickness advantage. That allowed him to hit an insane tope suicida to come close to evening things up.
Gresham went right back after the arm in the ring and tried to put Rush away. It led to amazing sequence (pictured above) where Gresham put the injured arm in an arm-trap crossface. Rush tried to use the other arm to grab the ropes. Gresham tried to pull back on that arm simultaneously. They went back and forth. It was incredibly dramatic, and Rush’s ability to finally get to the ropes felt so earned as a result.
From there, Gresham tried to put Rush away in a more traditional manner. It seemed like they were going to suddenly rely on a series of cliches like fighting spirit, fluke roll-up finishes, finisher kickouts, etc. However, Gresham stayed a step ahead of Rush the whole time though to make none of the moments seem trite. (It’s hard to explain properly, but you’ll understand when you see it.)
Gresham’s calmness throughout finally got the better of him though. He took his eye off the ball for a second, and he ran right into Rush Hour from Lio. Lio then stood them up and performed one more Rush Hour for the deathblow. (While the match would have been slightly more satisfying if Gresham won, ROH putting the roster member over is sound in theory.)
This was one of the most satisfying, substantive, exciting, and just genuinely fun matches in ROH in quite some time. It felt state-of-the-art in a way that ROH absolutely never conveys these days.
Jonathan Gresham IS what Ring of Honor should be. Lio Rush IS what Ring of Honor should be. Alex Shelley doing everything in his power on commentary to get them over IS what Ring of Honor should be. EVERYTHING about this match IS what Ring of Honor should be.
When in the fuck is Ring of Honor going to get it the fuck together and actually push guys like these two (and Dijak) to the fucking moon? Stop pushing stale acts like Adam Cole. Stop serving as a social security fund for TNA has-beens. Become the future today, or you’ll become just a memory. (****1/2)
Watch ROH for free!