Sunday, April 30, 2017

ROH Winter Warriors Tour '16: Duluth Review

AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, & Doc Gallows make their final appearances in ROH!

So this was a very interesting weekend for ROH. There were actually supposed to have an event in Asheville, North Carolina the night before, but a bad winter storm forced them to cancel the show entirely, leaving this as the sole ROH show of the weekend.

ROH Winter Warriors Tour ‘16: Duluth
Duluth, Georgia 1/23/16

1.) Dalton Castle vs. Corey Hollis (with Trina Michaels): ***1/4

It’s always a nice treat to see Corey Hollis on a ROH event. He’s been used sporadically by the company during the SBG era, and always puts in solid performances. On this night, Trina Michaels accompanied Hollis to ringside as he took on Dalton Castle. I thought this was a solid opening contest. The match definitely got off to a slow start, but it definitely picked up in the second half. They did get a good amount of time, and that certainly helped. Hollis had a good showing, but in the end, Dalton Castle scored the victory.

Up next, we had an in-ring promo from Georgia native AJ Styles promo. He had recently finished up in New Japan (he was kicked out of The Bullet Club the night after Wrestle Kingdom X, and Kenny Omega assumed controlled of the group). Styles making an appearance here was actually quite interesting in hindsight, as he would make his WWE debut in the Royal Rumble Match the next night in Orlando. He got showered with streamers as he entered the ring. Styles said that he didn’t need a written speech to pour his heart out to all of the fans. He said that ROH was one of the best promotions he’s ever worked for in his entire career. He didn’t know where he’d be without ROH, as he started with them in 2002, before he joined TNA. Styles was grateful to ROH for welcoming him back when he left TNA, and tells the fans to enjoy themselves tonight.

Styles was then interrupted by ROH World Champion Jay Lethal & Taeler Hendrix. Lethal said that nobody cared what AJ Styles had to say. Lethal noted that he beat Styles in the main event at Final Battle, and reminds him that ROH belongs to The House of Truth. He said people care about what he is doing, and brought up his ROH World Title defense tonight against Matt Jackson of The Young Bucks. Lethal said that normally, he doesn’t have issues with defending his title, but tonight was an exception, as he didn’t want to defend his title in a “god-awful” place like Duluth, adding that it isn’t even part of Atlanta proper. He claimed to be the greatest champion in the world, which brought out ROH World TV Champion Roderick Strong. He claimed to be the greatest champion in pro-wrestling, but he did agree with Lethal about Duluth, saying it sucked. Strong also agreed with Lethal on not caring about AJ Styles. He doesn’t care what AJ Styles is doing in the future. The two champions threaten to attack Styles, but this brought out The Bullet Club of Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, & The Young Bucks. Anderson said The Bullet Club had arrived, and then Matt Jackson spoke, mentioning their attack on AJ Styles on Korakuen Hall the night after Wrestle Kingdom X. Matt Jackson said that tonight, their issues were with Lethal & Strong. He said that, unlike Lethal & Strong, The Young Bucks are fighting champions, and proclaimed that they wanted their title shots. Gallows then took the mic and called out War Machine. He said that since they weren’t out there, he assumes they don’t want to defend their titles, and calls all the champions in ROH pussies. This finally brought out War Machine, and they went right after Anderson & Gallows. A big brawl broke out, and all eight men needed to be separated.

After that long segment, “P-Dog” Mike Posey came out with his posse. He tried to start a rap concert, but AJ Styles came back out and destroyed Posey with a Styles Clash.

2.) The All-Night Express vs. Cheeseburger & Moose (with Stokely Hathaway): ***1/2

Moose wore a Cheeseburger hat during his entrance. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from this one, but it ended up being a surprisingly good match. There was a lot of fun back & forth action, with some great near falls in the second half. I know people slowly soured on ANX in the year after their return, but it’s matches like this that show that are still a very good tag team that can produce some entertaining matches. On the other side, I thought Cheeseburger & Moose worked well together as a team. It’s sad that they never really were a regular duo, as that would’ve been another team to add to (what was at the time) a stacked tag team division. Ultimately, ANX would get the win here.

After the match, Moose went for a (reluctant) handshake, but ANX just blew him off.

3.) Cedric Alexander (with Veda Scott) vs. Mark Briscoe: ***1/2

Ian Riccaboni (who was on commentary for this show) mentioned very early on in the match that, coming into this show, Mark Briscoe had been undefeated in singles competition since July of 2015. It sounds like a fictional statistic, but it’s actually true. That’s a good six-month winning streak that went totally under the radar. Of course, the fact that he brought it up here meant that Cedric Alexander was going to end that streak, but that really didn’t matter, as the match was very good regardless. There was solid action throughout, and it was an entertaining undercard match to watch. Towards the end, Mark Briscoe went for the Froggy Bow, but Veda Scott got up on the ring apron to distract him. This slight delay allowed Alexander to take advantage, and he would end up getting the win with the Lumbar Check shortly thereafter. I didn’t mind that interference spot at all. It’s not like Veda Scott got physically involved in any way. She just distracted Mark Briscoe for a few seconds, which was enough for Alexander to recover and capitalize.

Before the next match began, Scarlett Bordeaux (who was the ring announcer on this night) announced that she received a message from Nigel McGuinness (via text, I guess), and he had ruled that the main event would now be an eight-man tag team match with all of the titles on the line. Seems like something WWE or TNA would do, but we’ll see how it turns out later on.

4.) Six-Man Tag – ACH, Alex Shelley, & Matt Sydal vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin & reDRagon: ****1/4

What’s interesting is that these two sides have teamed together before. Elgin teamed with reDRagon on a few occasions in 2015 against The Kingdom, while ACH, Alex Shelley, & Matt Sydal were essentially an unofficial stable at this time. There wasn’t much of a backstory to this one, but on paper, it had the potential to be the best match of the night. When the dust settled, that’s exactly what it ended up being. I thought this was awesome! This match featured a ton of exciting action from start to finish, and all six guys had a chance to shine. It really sucks that these ROH live events (especially in recent years) have almost little to no buzz, because great matches like this end up getting missed. Alas, as I’ve already mentioned, this particular contest was pretty great. Eventually, the team of ACH, Alex Shelley, and Matt Sydal got the win, pinning Michael Elgin after a flurry of high-flying offense. Elgin being the one to eat the pin was a surprise, but still, this was fantastic.

5.) “Bullet Babe” Amber Gallows vs. Veda Scott: *

This Women of Honor match was included as a bonus on the DVD, but in terms of match order, it took place at this point on the show. Taeler Hendrix made her way out to ringside early on to observe this one. Normally, I would include the match itself in this post (since ROH posts all of their Women of Honor matches on YouTube), but I’m not going to in this case. Why? Simply put, this match was awful. It was incredibly clunky throughout, and both women were just….bad. I know there was a women’s match in TNA between Rebel & Shelly Martinez that was universally proclaimed as the worst pro-wrestling match in 2016, but this wasn’t far behind. Amber Gallows won, but this match was hot garbage.

6.) Six-Man Mayhem – Jay Briscoe vs. Adam Page vs. Silas Young vs. Caprice Coleman vs. Will Ferrara vs. Frankie Kazarian: ***3/4

ROH had an amazing Six-Man Mayhem Match as part of their critically acclaimed Winter Warriors Tour event in Atlanta in February of 2015, and they went back to the well here with another really strong Six-Man Mayhem. Now the lineup this time around wasn’t nearly as star-studded as the year prior, but it was still a very fun match to watch. It was packed with action right from the start, and we saw a number of entertaining spot. At one point, there was actually a six person sleeper hold spot, which was actually pretty cool. Everyone got a chance to shine here as well, which was good to see.

Towards the end of the match, BJ Whitmer (who was on commentary) tossed Adam Page into the ring post when he was about to get back in the ring. This allowed Jay Briscoe to score the victory after hitting Will Ferrara with the Jay Driller. After the match, Jay Briscoe took the mic, and traded verbal shots with Kazarian, before turning his attention to Will Ferrara. He told Ferrara that his time was coming, but the former two-time ROH World Champion was soon interrupted by BJ Whitmer. He said that while they (as veterans) mentor guys like Adam Page & Will Ferrara now, they’ll eventually get big egos, and stab them in the back. Whitmer said that he and Briscoe actually have a lot in common. He proclaimed that there are a lot of young guys in ROH who don’t know the pecking order, and they need to be put in their place. Whitmer proposed that The Briscoes & The Decade (or what was left of The Decade at this point) join forces, and offers his hand to Jay Briscoe. Instead, Briscoe just flips him off. Adam Page then attacks Whitmer from behind. He tries to flee, but then Steve Corino shows up! He throws Whitmer back into the ring, and Adam Page hits him with his finisher, Right of Passage. Jay Briscoe then shook hands with Page, which was big, since they had a feud on ROH TV in 2015 that led to a brutal No DQ Match in San Antonio. They then took a fan sign from the crowd that read “someone please hit BJ Whitmer with this sign”, and proceede to hit Whitmer with it, in a funny moment.

7.) Adam Cole vs. Stevie Richards: ***

Stevie Richards (of ECW, WWE, and TNA fame) started to get some sporadic bookings with ROH towards the end of 2015, and that led to him getting some more bookings in 2016. Here, he took on Adam Cole. This was by no means spectacular, but for what it was, I thought it was good. I’m sure some would complain about ROH using a guy like Steve Richards, but it’s been clear right from the beginning that his role was to put over younger talents. Plus it’s not like he became a regular. I’m not thrilled to see him in ROH, but I don’t think him making a few appearances is a major issue. Regardless, Richards put in a solid effort against Cole. There was solid action in this one, but it was easily overshadowed by a lot of other things on this card. Cole would eventually get the win in this one.

After the match, Stevie Richards went for the Code of Honor, but Cole fakes him out, and leaves him hanging.

8.) ROH World Title/ROH World TV Title/ROH World Tag Team Titles – Jay Lethal (with Taeler Hendrix), Roderick Strong, & War Machine vs. The Bullet Club (Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks with “Bullet Babe” Amber Gallows): ****

Even though The Bullet Club had no chance of winning here (since Anderson & Gallows were also going to WWE in a few months), it wasn’t made very clear what would happen with the titles if The Bullet Club won. I would assume that the person who would get the win would get the title from the guy they pinned, but what about the other titles? It’s a very convoluted stipulation, but I think the reason for the change was that The Young Bucks really wanted to do this Eight-Man Tag, which was originally scheduled to take place in Asheville before that show got cancelled.

Amber Gallows and Taeler Hendrix both came out to the ring with their respective sides initially, but they were both taken out fairly quickly. First, Matt Jackson superkicked Hendrix, and Lethal responded by hitting Amber Gallows with a superkick of his own. From there, the match devolved into a giant brawl, but once things got back in this ring, this really ended up being a great main event. Yes, the outcome was blatantly obvious, and that did hurt the match a little bit, but the action in this one, especially in the second half, more than made up for it. The final few minutes of this one were fantastic, as bodies were flying all over the place. It wasn’t quite as good as the Six-Man Tag from earlier on, but with that closing stretch, it came pretty close. Ultimately, War Machine pinned Karl Anderson after hitting Fallout to score the victory for their team.

The DVD/VOD ended there, but that wasn’t the end of the show. After the main event finished, AJ Styles came back out, and did a final “curtain call” with The Bullet Club as he, Anderson, & Gallows celebrated with The Young Bucks for the last time in a ROH ring.

Overall: 8.25/10

This wasn’t quite as amazing as that crucially acclaimed February 2015 live event from Atlanta the year prior, but it was still a pretty strong showing from ROH. Aside from the Women of Honor match, there really wasn’t anything bad to speak of on this card. The multi-man matches were easily the highlights of this show, with the Six-Man Tag, the Six-Man Mayhem Match, and the Eight-Man Tag being the highlights of the night. There were also some really entertaining matches on the rest of the undercard, and as a whole, this event was truly a joy to watch.

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