Sunday, July 10, 2016

ROH Survival of the Fittest 2015: Night 2 Review

Five Men do battle in the Finals of the annual Survival of the Fittest Tournament!

I just have two quick notes that I need to go over before the show starts. The 2015 Survival of the Fittest Finals was originally scheduled to be a Six-Way Elimination Match (as it traditionally is). However, during his qualifying match with Cedric Alexander the night before, Roderick Strong suffered a concussion, and unfortunately, had to pull out of the Finals. That means that, for only the 2nd time in it’s history, the Survival of the Fittest Finals will be a Five-Way Elimination Match (the first time it happened was in 2006). The other note concerns the ring. ROH used a very interesting ring on this show, with red, white, & blue ropes. Now, it could have been to celebrate Veteran’s Day (which is November 11th), but it also could have been done as a way to stance with France after the Terrorist Attacks in Paris (which I believe occurred that weekend).

ROH Survival of the Fittest 2015: Night 2
Hopkins, Minnesota 11/14/15

1.) Cedric Alexander vs. Will Ferrara: ***

Alexander is coming off a losing effort in a Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match against Roderick Strong the night before, the same match where Strong suffered a concussion. Interestingly enough, this is the 2nd time in the span of a month that a wrestler has suffered a concussion in a singles match against Cedric Alexander (ACH suffered a concussion in a match with Alexander in Kalamazoo the month prior). Now that could all be just coincidence, but it’s a fascinating note nonetheless. The fact that commentary actually acknowledged this as well was also quite interesting. As far as this match goes, it was a fine opener. Alexander looked good, and Ferrara always manages to put on decently good matches in the undercard. As you would expect, Alexander gets the win.

After the match, Alexander offers a handshake to Ferrara, but then spits in his face instead.

Before our next match begins, we get a promo from BJ Whitmer. He says that while everyone else may be blind, he knows that Mr. Wrestling III is actually Steve Corino. He wants Mr. Wrestling III to remove his mask so he can get Corino fired for violating his suspension. Whitmer also wants him to do this so he can take his spot on commentary, and threatens to hold the show hostage until Mr. Wrestling III removes his mask. He continues rambling until they cut his microphone. He gets another microphone, but then they cut it again. Soon, referees & security come out, and throw Whitmer out from ringside.

2.) Adam Page vs. Dalton Castle: ***1/4

Both of these men were in a Triple Threat Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match the night before, which was won by Silas Young. I thought this was a good match. It was around the same quality as the Triple Threat Match they were in the night before. Solid work from both guys here. Towards the end of the match, BJ Whitmer comes back out (seemingly trying to confront Mr. Wrestling III), but is held back by security & referees. This distracts Page long enough for Castle to take advantage of the situation and score the victory with the Bang-A-Rang.

3.) Mark Briscoe vs. Frankie Kazarian: **3/4

When this match came up on the card, I groaned. It’s got nothing to do with Mark Briscoe (he’s great). My frustration has more to do with Frankie Kazarian. He does absolutely nothing for me as a singles guy. It’s not like he’s a bad wrestler or anything, I just can’t get into his singles matches. This particular match was decent, but again, it just didn’t hold my interest, and that’s mainly because of Frankie Kazarian. Thankfully, Mark Briscoe would get the win in this one.

4.) Six-Man Tag  - The Kingdom (Adam Cole & ROH World Tag Team Champions Matt Taven & Michael Bennet with Maria Kanellis) vs. Moose & War Machine (with Stokely Hathaway): ***3/4

Adam Cole & Moose were part of a Triple Threat Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match the night before, which was won by Michael Elgin, while Matt Taven & Michael Bennett will be defending the ROH World Tag Team Titles against Hanson & Ray Rowe at Final Battle 2015. I thought this was a really good Six-Man Tag. I’d say it was about on par with the Bullet Club/House of Truth Six-Man Tag Team Main Event from the night before in Milwaukee. The only complaint I have about this one is that it went a little too long (you probably could have shaved three minutes or so off this one). Still, this was a very entertaining Six-Man Tag. The crowd in Hopkins was seemingly into the action, and all six-guys definitely worked hard. The Kingdom eventually got the win here.

5.) Joey “Diesel” Daddiego (with Truth Martini & Taeler Hendrix) vs. Cheeseburger: *1/4

This was easily the worst match on the show. Cheeseburger was fine (it’s impossible to not love the guy), but Daddiego is just not a good wrestler. Plus, what does it say about this guy that he needs outside interference from The House of Truth to beat an INJURED Cheeseburger?! Seriously?! Daddiego wins. Moving on….

6.) The All-Night Express vs. The Young Bucks: ***1/2

These two teams actually had a pretty lengthy feud from the end of 2011 through the first few months of 2012 (It specifically started when Rhett Titus suffered a knee injury during an ANX/Young Bucks match on a ROH live event in The Carolinas in late 2011). I thought this was a very good match. It only went about eleven or twelve minutes, but they packed a lot of action into that time frame. The crowd was in love with The Young Bucks (as they always are), but Kenny King & Rhett Titus had their moments as well. There was a weird moment towards the end of the match, as the referee accidentally got taken out with a superkick. It seems like the only reason they did this was so that ANX could get a “visual three count”. The Young Bucks would go on to win the match, but ANX left upset, feeling like they had the match won.

7.) “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles vs. Matt Sydal: ***3/4

In an interesting note, the first match Sydal had when he returned to ROH in late 2014 was against AJ Styles. I thought this match was right around the same quality of that first match. The action was very solid from start to finish, as you would expect, given who’s involved. There were some cool moments throughout, and the fans were into both guys. I feel like this match could have been a little bit better, given that Sydal has really become one of the best in the world in the time since that return match in September of 2014. However, I think the fact that Styles was dealing with nagging back issues may have hindered this match somewhat. Still, this was a very good match. In the end, Styles would score the victory with the Styles Clash.

After the match, Styles & Sydal shook hands.

8.) The House of Truth (ROH World Champion Jay Lethal & Donovan Dijak with Truth Martini & Taeler Hendrix) vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions reDRagon: ***1/2

Lethal has faced off with both members of reDRagon numerous times throughout 2015. This was a pretty good tag team match. Fish & O’Reilly were there usual great selves, but I came away really impressed with the Lethal/Dijak tag team. They seemed to work very well together, and even incorporated some new double team moves into their repertoire, including a Lethal Combination into a Powerbomb-assisted Chokebreaker. Incredible stuff. reDRagon would eventually score the win here in a very entertaining tag team affair.

9.) 2015 Survival of the Fittest Finals – Silas Young vs. ACH vs. Christopher Daniels vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Jay Briscoe: ****1/4

Like I mentioned earlier, Roderick Strong was forced out of this match after suffering a concussion in his qualifying match with Cedric Alexander the night before. Just to run though the eliminations quickly along with some other highlights (before I get into my thoughts on the match itself), Silas Young was eliminated first by ACH. In between the first and second eliminations, Elgin tried to give Jay Briscoe a Samoan Drop from the Apron through a table on the floor, but Christopher Daniels got involved, and ended up putting BOTH Elgin & Briscoe through the table! ACH then has Daniels beat, but Kazarian comes out to distract the referee. This leads to Matt Sydal coming out, and he & ACH double-team Kazarian in the ring. As the referees and security try to remove Kazarian & Sydal, Daniels kicks ACH low, and beats him after hitting the Best Moonsault Ever. Daniels is then eliminated a little later on by Jay Briscoe. It comes down to Michael Elgin vs. Jay Briscoe. They have a great back & forth battle, but in the end, Elgin is able to win Survival of the Fittest for the 2nd time!!

This was a MUCH better Survival of the Fittest Finals compared to 2014. While it certainly wasn’t the best Finals in the history of the tournament, it was definitely one of the better ones. The first half of the match told a really good story, particularly with Christopher Daniels. He just played his role as the sneaky veteran very well, from working together with Silas Young, to putting both Briscoe & Elgin through a table, to taking advantage of the chaos created by Kazarian’s interference. Young, as I figured, was the first one out. ACH looked good here, but I feel like this was a very poor payoff to the Best-of-Five Series. Given that series culminated in the winner getting a spot in the Survival of the Fittest Finals, ACH should have lasted a little longer in this match. It worries me that this is the second tournament in 2015 where ACH was unnecessarily eliminated by Daniels (the first instance occurred in the one-night #1 Contender’s Tournament at Aftershock Tour: Las Vegas earlier that year). I would have preferred if ACH eliminated Daniels here.

The last part of the match between Jay Briscoe & Michael Elgin was great. That part of the match actually lasted a good twelve to thirteen minutes. The action was awesome, and the crowd was really into it. Elgin winning with a new finisher, The Burning Hammer, was pretty cool to see. The finish itself was also very significant in a number of ways. It was only the second time that Jay Briscoe had been pinned in the last three years (of course, Jay Lethal defeated him at Best In The World 2015). Additionally, it was a bit of redemption for Elgin, as it was Jay Briscoe who beat him for the ROH World Title at All-Star Extravaganza VI, which started the downslide that Elgin went on towards the end of 2014. As a whole, this was a fantastic match. I can only image that if Roderick Strong wasn’t forced out due to a concussion, this match would have been even better.

After the match, we get a promo from Michael Elgin. He tells Jay Briscoe that he might be the toughest guy he’s ever gone up against. He says wars like that are why fans buy tickets to see ROH, and why those letters are so important. Battles like this makes ROH the best wrestling on the planet, Elgin says. He asks Jay to shake hands, and he does. Elgin then talks about the fact that he just earned a shot at the ROH World Title. He mentions how Jay Lethal made his legacy in 2015, while he’s been rebuilding his own legacy in 2015, which included his run in the 2015 G1 Climax. Elgin then says he wants his shot at the ROH World Title in Japan!

Overall: 8.25/10

I think it’s fair to say that, as a whole, the 2015 Survival of the Fittest Tournament was much better than the 2014 edition, and the Finals personified that. After the Attitude-Era styles car-crash that was the 2014 Finals, the 2015 Finals were a significant improvement. Even though Roderick Strong wasn’t able to compete, the five men involved still produced a fantastic Main Event that was easily the best match of the weekend. The rest of the undercard was mostly solid as well, with the highlights including Moose & War Machine vs. The Kingdom, AJ Styles vs. Matt Sydal, ANX vs. The Young Bucks, & The House of Truth vs. reDRagon. This card, with matches like Cheeseburger vs. Daddiego & Mark Briscoe vs. Kazarian, was a little less consistent than the show from the night prior in Milwaukee. However, the quality of much of the undercard and the awesome Main Event makes Night 2, in my opinion, right on par with Night 1.

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