wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Will ROH Come Back in 2022?

December 17, 2021 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Jonathan Gresham, ROH Final Battle Image Credit: ROH

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

This week we are having the next match up in the first round of our Annual Larry Csonka Memorial Fact or Fiction Tournament.

A phenomenon occurred when I used to read Larry’s daily match reviews. Over time the consistency in his match-flow descriptions and critical analysis of the result formed a rhythm that complemented the experience of being an obsessive fan. And while the Dave Meltzer star rating system may have set the standard that most matcher reviewers use, getting 5-stars (or more) from Meltzer is like an Oscar; it’s awarded for excellence without any real explanation of how or why that honour was given. Sure, Meltzer and Larry might agree on a 5-star match, but with the accumulation of Larry’s daily reviews of everything on TV, a 5-star rating from him felt earned.

So today I’ve asked two reviewers here at 411 to grapple with some of the challenges and idiosyncrasies of rating and grading matches: fresh off the triumphant finale to New Japan’s tandem Best of the Super Juniors and World Tag League tournaments, star-rater Ian Hamilton, and our reviewer of all the prime-time weekly shows from WWE and AEW, grade-giver Thomas Hall.

Participants were told to expect wrestling-related content, as well as possible statements on quantum physics, homemade pharmaceuticals, the Turtle Total Trip Theorem, pizza and hydroponics.

Statement #1: Ring of Honor will come back as a full-time pro-wrestling promotion in 2022.

Thomas Hall: FACT – I kept going back and forth on this one because it depends on what “full time” means. I’m sure they’ll have their tapings and I’m sure they’ll have their TV show, but as far as having regular, ongoing storylines in the mold of other promotions of their size? I’m not sure I’ll go that far, as I can’t picture Ring of Honor reaching the levels of even MLW or Impact at this point. There are still going to be shows and I think they will be around for a few months, so if that counts as permanent, I’ll take FACT here, albeit with limited confidence.

Ian Hamilton: FICTION – A lot depends on how you define “full-time,” but if ROH having guys under contracts in 2021 met that criteria, then no, they won’t be full time in 2022, based on what the word is. If you’re just taking “they run regularly” as being full-time, then “maybe”, but there’s a lot of pessimism over whether that April return date has any truth to it.

Statement #2: Wrestlers care about the star ratings / grades that wrestling media give to their matches.

Thomas Hall: FACT – Maybe not all of the media, but there are absolutely some wrestlers who care what some media thinks of them. AEW released a video of Britt Baker saying that her goal for her unsanctioned match with Thunder Rosa was to get five stars from Dave Meltzer, so absolutely there are some out there who do care. Wrestling is still about money, but the performance aspect of it has come a very long way. You often hear wrestling compared to an art form these days and while your mileage may vary, there are wrestlers who care about what the media thinks. I have long since thought wrestlers are keeping track of what grades reviewers give them, even though they would probably never mention it in public.

Ian Hamilton: FACT – Based on some of the snarky comments I’ve seen throughout the years, and the fact that it’s been used as a talking point in the current Michael Oku/Will Ospreay feud in Rev Pro, then yes. Is it the right mindset to have, based on the fact that ratings typically are gut feelings? Perhaps not – I can think of a few matches where I’ve gone too high (or similarly have gone too low) because of the moment, but like with any data point, you probably shouldn’t look at single moments in isolation.

Statement #3: As a reviewer, it matters to you who referees a match.

Thomas Hall: FICTION – I’ve reviewed over 6,000 full shows in my time, which we’ll say comes to about 35,000 matches. In all that time, I can probably name the referee in….oh maybe 14 matches? The referee is supposed to be invisible during a match (while also playing an important role) and whoever it is shouldn’t make a difference. There are some referees who do a better job than others, but ultimately I almost never notice. Outside of hey that’s “Insert Hebner Of Choice Here/Tommy Young/Lilttle Naitch/Teddy Long back in the day”, I’m almost never going to notice and that’s how it should be.

Ian Hamilton: FICTION – Unless it’s a special guest referee, no – and even then it’d have to be an over-the-top heel ref that’d actively drag the match down. Sure, there’s been times I’ve thought “hang on, that’s not the usual main event ref, so we’re going to get a ref bump”, but that’s not harmed my enjoyment or anything like that.

¡SWITCH!

Statement #4: A bad ending to an excellent match (such as a botched finish, quick roll-up, draw, DQ or count-out) should negatively effect its final rating / grade.

Ian Hamilton: FACT – Three words. House of Torture. Yes, I get that their gimmick is they cheat, but I’ve started to add a House of Torture tax to my ratings, particularly when their shenanigans are egregious. Similar to “botched finishes,” I think it depends on the moment – like if it’s painfully obvious the ref accidentally counted a three when the opponent’s shoulder was up (and it wasn’t instantly clear to be a storyline), or if you get the dreaded “time stands still” spot as everyone figures out what’s happened then yes, that’ll drag down things somewhat.

Thomas Hall: FICTION – I’m going with FICTION here, as not all of those are bad endings. A botch is one thing, but sometimes a rollup, draw, DQ or countout is the right call for an ending. Case in point, a match ending in a countout or DQ is a great way to extend a feud without having someone take a pin/submission loss. Look at this week’s Monday Night Raw when Bobby Lashley pinned WWE Champion Big E. How much less painful would that have been if Big E. had lost via countout or DQ to send Lashley to the WWE Title match at Day One? They are a tool that can be used to protect someone and while they shouldn’t be used over and over and while it is nice to not telegraph the heck out of such a finish, there is certainly a place for them.

Now a botched finish on the other hand can bring things down a bit, because it is by definition an error. I’m not sure how much of an impact it would have on an otherwise long and great match, but I can absolutely see it causing some points to be deducted. Depending on the level of the botch, it can be pretty severe, especially as the finish is the thing a lot of fans will remember the most. If a match has been excellent throughout though, I have no issue with leaving the rating very high, even with a slip up at the end. There is no such thing as a perfect match and it doesn’t seem fair to heavily punish a match that is so high quality for the majority of its time.

Statement #5: Larry would have given 5 stars to at least one match in 2021.

Ian Hamilton: FACT – It probably wouldn’t have come out of New Japan, but I’d have been stunned had Larry not whipped out the ***** for something out of North America, whether it be Ilja/WALTER 2, or something out of AEW. Or Eva Marie vs. Alexa Bliss. Probably that one.

Thomas Hall: FACT – There are two ways of looking at this and both of them get me to a yes. First of all, there have been matches (as in plural) this year that would absolutely rate five stars. Between Ilja Dragunov vs. Walter for the NXT United Kingdom Title to a host of matches from New Japan/AEW to a few matches where your tastes may vary, there is a lot to pick from. I don’t think it is a question of whether Larry would have found a five star match, but rather how many he would have given such an honor.

The other reason I would go with yes is that Larry loved wrestling and watched a lot of it. I know WWE is not exactly doing well at the moment, but there is more than enough quality wrestling from around the US and the world. If you stick with WWE all of the time, odds are you’ll have some trouble finding a match to rate that highly, but that’s not what Larry did. He watched stuff from all sorts of promotions and could find great stuff everywhere, so yes, absolutely Larry would have found not just one five star match, but probably multiple.

Excellent stuff! I bet Larry would have given this Tanahashi / Shingo classic from last January the full 5 stars. That’s a match I hope doesn’t get forgotten in all the upcoming Best of 2021 lists.

But who do YOU think won the unofficial “Battle of the Reviewers” match up this week? One of these men will move on to the tournament finals and you will determine the winner below!

Thanks infinitely to Thomas Hall for the insight into his process this week. Be sure to check out his weekly reviews of all your favorite shows, and his website archive of those 35,000 reviewed matches (and counting): https://kbwrestlingreviews.com/

And cheers to Ian Hamilton for missing wXw live in order to take part this week. Let’s all get over to his Twitter account give him some much needed love after working through the often soul-crushing end-of-the-year NJPW tour: https://twitter.com/IanWrestling

Don’t forget, the Go Fund Me for Larry’s family is still open for donations. Let’s help them reach that goal and show we’ve never forgotten what Larry meant to us!

And I’ll be back next week to announce the finalists for the Larry Csonka Memorial FoF Tournament – don’t miss it!