For the 2nd year in a row, ROH has decided to split Survival of the Fittest into two nights, with the qualifying matches taking place on Night 1, and the Finals taking place on Night 2. The 2015 edition of the tournament features 18 Participants, and the qualifying matches consist of two singles matches, two triple-threat matches, and two four-corner survival matches.
ROH Survival of the Fittest 2015: Night 1
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 11/13/15
1.) Cheeseburger vs. “The Outlaw” Ken Phoenix: *3/4
They actually did an old “wild west standoff” to start this match. There’s nothing really much to say about this one. It was ok pre-show match. Pretty much what you would expect. Cheeseburger would get the win in this one.
1.) Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Christopher Daniels vs. Hanson vs. Kenny King vs. Mark Briscoe: ***1/2
In an interesting note, the two Four-Corner Survival Qualifying Matches have essentially split up four tag teams, those being The Addiction, ANX, The Briscoes, & War Machine. I would say this match was definitely the better of the two. A very good opening match here. All four guys got a change to shine, and it was just an enjoyable match to watch. I was a little surprised to see Christopher Daniels get the win here (I was expecting Hanson to win here), but honestly, I don’t think the winner of this match really mattered. “The Ring General” advances to the Survival of the Fittest Finals.
2.) Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – ROH World TV Champion Roderick Strong vs. Cedric Alexander: ****
Our first singles qualifying match of the night is a matchup of old rivals. These two had a long feud in 2014 which culminated with Alexander getting a huge win on ROH’s first live PPV, Best In The World 2014. Now while Alexander’s fortunes and situation have changed a lot since then, Strong has had a fantastic 2015 across the board. As far as this encounter is concerned, I thought it was great!! In comparison to their matches from 2014, I thought it might have been their best match, though I think it’s pretty close. The action from start to finish was awesome, and the crowd in Milwaukee was really into it. These two guys work very well together, and it resulted in a match that’s an easy contender for Match of the Night. Strong would score the victory here, advancing to the Survival of the Fittest Finals.
3.) Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Adam Page (with BJ Whitmer) vs. Dalton Castle vs. Silas Young (with The Beer City Bruiser): ***1/4
Silas Young cuts a promo before the match. He says that as much as he’d like to bask in the glory of being in his hometown, he reminds the fans in Milwaukee that they’re “average-minded people” (Back in 2014, Young called the fans in Milwaukee average). The crowd then chants “We Are Average”. That’s actually pretty hilarious. He chastises them for cheering for Dalton Castle, and says that The Boys are in Milwaukee, but they’re not at the show. Young actually said that The Boys didn’t want to come to the show, because they don’t want to see Dalton Castle anymore, and suggests that seeing him makes them “phobic”.
The match itself was good. A relatively standard Triple Threat Match. All three guys in here, much like the competitors in the earlier Four-Corner Survival Match, got the chance to shine, and again, the crowd was into it. Silas Young getting the win to advance to the Survival of the Fittest Finals (after interference from The Beer City Bruiser) was a little surprising to me. I figured Adam Page was a lock to win, since I figured Castle & Young would be so distracted with fighting each other that Page would take advance and get the win, but alas, that didn’t happen.
After the match, Silas Young & The Beer City Bruiser continue to attack Dalton Castle.
4.) ROH World Tag Team Titles – The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Michael Bennett with Maria Kanellis) vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions reDRagon: ***3/4
The first non-tournament match of the night sees The Kingdom defending their ROH World Tag Team Titles against Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly. Of course, the Milwaukee crowd starts giving us “We Want Shots” chants, and other random “Shots” chants, as soon as the match started. They’re never going to let Matt Taven forget the time he promised them shots if he won the ROH World Title. I think it’s great! As far as this match goes, I actually really enjoyed it. I feel like reDRagon have consistently been Bennett & Taven’s best opponents. Their three previous encounters (for me, at least) have all been around the ***1/2-***3/4 range, and this may have been their best encounter. reDRagon were awesome, as they always are, but The Kingdom did very well here also. The match was hurt a little bit by the finish, as Maria Kanellis pulled the referee out of the ring when reDRagon had the match won, which soon after, led to Adam Cole coming out and hitting O’Reilly with a superkick to help his stablemates retain their ROH World Tag Team Titles. It could have been a little better without that finish, but it does further the Cole/O’Reilly feud, so I can’t complain too much.
After the match, Michael Bennett leads his wife, Maria Kanellis, off to the back, while Bobby Fish runs out and brawls to the back with Matt Taven. This left Cole & O’Reilly alone in the ring with each other. They brawl for a bit before security has to break them up.
Before the second half begins, Kevin Kelly comes to the ring and introduces Mr. Wrestling III (who, when he spoke, sounded oddly familiar) as his new commentary partner. He talks about how he’s done all of his homework, and that he’s excited to be on commentary for the rest of this show. Of course, we all know who’s under the mask, but more on this in future reviews.
5.) Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Frankie Kazarian vs. Raymond Rowe vs. Rhett Titus vs. Jay Briscoe: ***
So this mirrors the opening match, as the other halves of The Addiction, ANX, The Briscoes, and War Machine are facing off. This was a decently good match, but it was by far the worst match on the show (and I think that just speaks to the quality of the matches on this show). Again, the match was fine, but I think the issue is that this match involves two guys (Frankie Kazarian & Rhett Titus) who just aren’t that interesting as singles wrestlers. Anytime that Jay Briscoe or Ray Rowe (or both) were in the ring, this was good. When Kazarian or Titus (or both) were in the ring….not so much. There were also a few botches (mainly from Titus) which actually managed to silence the normally loud Milwaukee crowd. The fact that the match went nearly seventeen minutes (much longer than it should have) definitely hurt it a little bit as well. Thankfully, Jay Briscoe was able to win the match to advance to the Survival of the Fittest Finals.
6.) Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Adam Cole vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Moose (with Stokely Hathaway): ***1/2
Before the match, it’s Story Time With Adam Cole Bay Bay! Cole says that he’ll win this match, go on to the Survival of the Fittest Finals, and become the first person to win the tournament for a 2nd time. He said that he’ll make sure that Kyle O’Reilly never holds the ROH World Title, and adds that he was offended that ROH Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness put O’Reilly on a list of title contenders, but not Adam Cole. He says that he’s better than O’Reilly in every single way. Cole finally says that O’Reilly will never be ROH World Champion, or hold any title in ROH, as long as he’s in this company, adding that O’Reilly can’t lace his boots.
Now onto the match, this was basically the same match (in terms of who’s involved) that was the Main Event of Reloaded Tour ’15: Lockport several weeks prior, except ACH isn’t part of this particular match. I thought this was a very good Triple Threat Match, but given who was involved, I was expecting it to be a little better. There was a bit of comedy, as Elgin & Moose tried to one-up each other by taking turns beating up Adam Cole, but there was also some good action here as well. Once again, the Milwaukee crowd really added to the match, making it that much more enjoyable to watch. Towards the end of the match, Cole looks to have the match won, but Kyle O’Reilly comes out, and needs to be held back by referees and security. This distracts Cole long enough for Elgin to take advantage, taking out Moose, and then pinning Adam Cole to win the match. Elgin advances to the Survival of the Fittest Finals.
7.) Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Best-of-Five Series: Match #5 – ACH vs. Matt Sydal: ****
The last qualifying match of the night is also the culmination of the Best-of-Five Series between these two. The winner gets the last spot in the Survival of the Fittest Finals. I have to say, that this is a bit of a lackluster award. One of the issues I had with this series from the beginning was that the award for the winner was never made clear. I think the winner actually getting a title shot would have been much better than the winner getting a chance to fight for a title shot. Anyway, the match itself was great, as you would expect. This series, from a match quality perspective, has been awesome from start to finish, and these two delivered once again. I wouldn’t call this the best match of the series (I think that honor still belongs to Match #1 at Reloaded Tour ’15: Dearborn), but I’d say this one is right up there with Match #2 from Reloaded Tour ’15: Chicago Ridge. In the end, ACH would score the victory, winning the Best-of-Five Series, and punching his ticket to the Survival of the Fittest Finals.
After the match, the two tag team partners shake hands. With that result, the 2015 Survival of the Fittest Finals has been set. It’ll be Christopher Daniels vs. Roderick Strong vs. Silas Young vs. Jay Briscoe vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. ACH!
8.) Six-Man Tag – The Bullet Club (“The Phenomenal” AJ Styles & The Young Bucks) vs. The House of Truth (ROH World Champion Jay Lethal, Donovan Dijak, & Joey “Diesel” Daddiego with Truth Martini & Taeler Hendrix): ***3/4
I never thought I’d see the artist formerly known as J. Diesel in the Main Event of a ROH show, but yet, here we are. In all seriousness, this match is basically building up the Jay Lethal/AJ Styles ROH World Title Match at Final Battle 2015, as their two respective stables are clashing in this Six-Man Tag Team Match. I thought this was a really good Main Event. I think it says a lot about just how good AJ Styles & The Young Bucks are that they were able to drag Joey “Diesel” Daddiego (who is easily the worst wrestler on his own team, and the worst wrestler in this match by several country miles) to what will probably be the best match of his career. They’re just so amazing as a trio, it’s insane. This match was just a fun match to watch from start to finish, and again, the crowd in Milwaukee was really into it. I think the match was hurt a little bit with some silliness at the end, where there referee got pulled out of the ring when The Bullet Club seemingly had the match won, and then Truth Martini ate a triple superkick, but it was still an enjoyable Main Event. The big story here is that AJ Styles got the win for his team by pinning Jay Lethal with the Styles Clash. I thought that was a great move. Having Styles pin Lethal, the ROH World Champion, clean in the middle with the Styles Clash just a month before their title match really adds a lot to the build of that match, as Styles just showed that he can beat Lethal.
The Bullet Club celebrates to close the show.
I really enjoyed this show. It was pretty entertaining to watch from start to finish. Every match was at least *** or better, and there were no bad matches to speak of. Even the worst match on the Main Show (the 2nd Four-Corner Survival), still had enough moments that made it a decently good match. The best matches of the night is a tossup between Roderick Strong vs. Cedric Alexander & ACH vs. Matt Sydal. Both of those matches were great. We also got some quality matches throughout the undercard, including the two non-tournament matches, as well as the 1st Four-Corner Survival and the 2nd Triple Threat Match. Additionally, the fans in Milwaukee just add so much to the show. They were into everything, and this once again shows why Milwaukee is easily one of the best stops on ROH’s calendar every year. It was just a very consistent show from start to finish, and an easy one to sit through.