It’s time for Honor Rising, the first shows of its kind during the tenure of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s and Ring of Honor’s partnership that’s seen tons of unique matches, moments, and cross promotion — this may just top it all though. I’m watching the Samurai version of the show, which is a massive upgrade in comparison to the NJPW World streamed downgrade. I’m mega excited for a few matches, with the most hype geared towards Roderick Strong vs. Tomohiro Ishii for the ROH World Television Championship. As one of the site’s biggest puroresu proponents, and the ROH reviewer for the site outright, this is an exciting time to be up at 1 in the morning doing what I love to do, watch wrestling and write. It’s time for Honor Rising Night 1 from Korakuen Hall!
A bizarre video package kicks things off, as we get cut-ins of the Delirious promo announcing the tour from the G1 Climax Final, and ROH crowd chants like “this is awesome” and “ROH, ROH,” etc.
Dalton is out, with local boys, and Taguchi follows suit by parodying Dalton himself!
(God dammit, the blue bars really do hate me sometimes. I apologize that the first match isn’t formatted correctly as it doesn’t want to be.)
Ryusuke Taguchi & Dalton Castle vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Matt Sydal
Wasn’t able to catch the first bit of this but it was your comedy relief opener with all the Dalton action you’ve ever wanted, with partner Taguchi by his side. I was able to watch at the best times, seemingly, with the match getting a tad more serious. Dalton and Sydal had some good exchanges as Korakuen still struggled to fully react to the foreign talent. After Liger dove on Taguchi and Sydal escaped the Bang-a-rang, he hit his Shooting Star Press for the win. A bit weird for Castle to eat the pin in his debut, just like he did at PWG.
This came about after these two lads in the booking meeting for the shows went “just fuck up the card, fam,” as we proceed with this ugly looking match. WHO BOOKED THEMSELVES TO GO OVER?! Delirious hardly got a reaction which is humorous. More comedy mixed with the junior style put on display. Delirious went through his many phases, from sliding in and out of the ring, to biting Gedo’s fingers, to actually trying to out-wrestle New Japan’s booker. Gedo was there to take all the punishment. Once this morphed into the more wrestling side of things it became decent. Some rollings around with counters as Delirious evaded Gedo’s splash, and Delirious took advantage of his grip to landslide Gedo for the win, and first ever annual winner of the official Battle of the Bookers Bowl. Delirious went into business for himself. The two shook hands and that was back. Now back to plotting run-ins on the combined big show. Delirious also embraced with a Japanese cosplayer who so happened to be…Delirious.
This match is brought to you by Adam Cole, who couldn’t make it. Out of all people, Kazarian was called in as Cole’s replacement; and this is essentially replacing what would have been Adam Cole vs. Katsuyori Shibata — pending on placement on the card. KUSHIDA always gives his 110% in affiliation with ROH, and U.S. wrestlers, so this has to be at least solid. I dug this match, especially when it found its identity, with Kazarian getting lots of offense in as the aggressive man taking advantage of KUSHIDA’s size. KUSHIDA still managed to put his agility to use, whether it was taking to the air or owning Kazarian in the touted ground style we all love. In an incredible spot, and one that will sure be a highlight of the shows, Kazarian came diving over the ropes for his signature springboard cutter, but KUSHIDA caught him in the Hoverboard Lock, quickly transitioning it into a squeeze until the bigger man got out. Kazarian brought his own unique offense as well, at one point holding KUSHIDA in a piggyback and proceeding to fallback into a German suplex like position. Kazarian went for a top rope Spanish Fly, but KUSHIDA caught his arm and smashed it into the mat, then proceeded to kick Kazarian in the face, and lock in the Hoverboard Lock for the victory after a minor struggle. Good stuff.
Faces team is loaded. Moose got a great reaction, people doing the arm taunt and all. Could end up being good. This had its moments, and was still a fun watch, but it remained to not be much; maintaining some multi-man flaws that tend to happen with the Bullet Club C-squad. Cody Hall has never looked better at least, although it’s still difficult for him to measure quality control in the ring. Tanahashi didn’t do much except being worked over after Yujiro started the chain with a chair shot on his injured shoulder. Most of the match was focused around the big men of the match, and rightfully so. We had awesome combinations with Moose & Elgin leading the forefront. Cody got a lot of time to shine and did well. Moose was the star of the match, and the crowd was behind him — especially with the help of already over Elgin, already over Honma, and star Tanahashi. The crazy finish saw a Kokeshi on Hall, Fisherman’s on Honma, Elgin stacking Tama & Yujiro, Tana dumped on three Bullet Club members, and lastly Moose finally getting his reverge on Hall including one of the most beautiful big man crossbody’s I’ve ever seen. A spear got Team Stacked Faces the win!
Katsuyori Shibata teaming with reDRagon, as well as being on the other side of the ring from The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega. What a time to be alive. Fun fact: NJPW haven’t updated O’Reilly’s Twitter handle on their nameplates. This was fantastic and is one of my favorite trios matches this year. Everything clicked, even more than what I thought it would. Kenny & Shibata had chemistry as if they’ve been wrestling each other on loops for years. Shibata was so crucial to how this tag performed. His limited involvement was exactly the catalyst that propelled this to the next level. When he stepped in the ring, it meant a lot, especially vs. Kenny with that added chemistry. He continued to be taken out, every step of the way, either by Kenny himself or by Bucks antics, which were more serious geared towards shoot threat Shibata. Kenny & The Bucks are a better trio than AJ & The Bucks were. That’s a shoot. This was match of the night thus far, and something you need to watch. Bucks & reDRagon were not tiresome as they possessed variety, reDRagon got to be more ‘shoot-ish’, and Kenny vs. Shibata was built to excellently. The finishing stretch of the match was incredible, which saw Kyle get his face sprayed after Shibata was taken out once last time. The once countered One Winged Angel by Kyle was hit on him after a struggle to even hit it the second time. The kicker? Fatality 2.0 was put into effect here. More burns on AJ Styles. All hail Kenny!
This could be excellent if it gets time, and especially since this is one of Gallows & Gun’s last matches in Japan for the time being, particularly New Japan. Mark Briscoes continued his mini-Mick Foley run, being a lunatic and taking big bumps that add to his aura as a performer. Karl also took the flipping neckbreaker on the mat outside which is an aching achievement in itself. However, as a match itself, this fell a little short. It felt so rushed and it was sloppier than both teams usually are as Mark completely missed an aerial hit which looked completely awkward and might have explained the finish nearly right after. It had its bright spots, such as the hard hitting offense, Gallows putting on a better performance than usual (note: opponents), and some double team workovers, but other than that it went down the plug a few times. Karl Anderson was pinned by Jay after Mark hit the Froggy Bow. Small “Anderson” chants as the two exit to the back.
After the tension shown between both heel parties on the Samurai TV pre-show, I’m a bit more fired up than I would have been had I not seen such a segment beforehand. This tag still didn’t do much for me, but was solid for what it was. Of course it had to be dragged out since it was a co-main event. Like fellow staffer Izzac says at times, New Japan tend to do things like this on shows, filtering out non-traditional booking schemes just to make the pecking order the same everytime no matter where the match is positioned and what it is. Albeit frustrating, at least there are some positives to take out of this tag. We got the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, the potential IWGP Heavyweight Champion come June, the man Shinsuke Nakamura called most underrated in the company, and the ROH World Champion together in one match. Jay Lethal sold like a godsend for the finishing stretch, taking Okada’s dropkick and slowly wiggling to the ground, as well as flipping inside-out for YOSHI-HASHI’s lariat. None the less, the heels managed to stay in control although their was a definite power struggle between the two parties. Jay Lethal pinned YOSHI-HASHI (I am shocked) after a Lethal Injection. Naito came back strong with a beatdown post-match, and the two parties shook hands after the fact, Naito gave both guys a fist bump, put his hat on Lethal, and Naito scrolled through the Book of Truth. Quite awesome if you ask me.
Roderick Strong Samurai TV promo quotes before the main event:
Roddy vs. The World continues in the best way yet, and the match that’s most likely going to define Roddy’s reign with the title in 2016. This is a literal dream match that some have been asking for for years, and it’s finally happening right here at Honor Rising, plus for gold! This match is so special that even Todd Sinclair is reffing it. It took a bit of time for Strong’s role in the match to resonate with the crowd, but after that point the match felt a bit more ideal with its reactions and flow. However, the whole dynamic of face vs. face came through still, because the crowd, no matter how many rules Roddy would bend, and how many things he would do, unfairly to Ishii; the crowd didn’t care because this was a special show. They’d still chant for Roddy at times, they’d still pop for his spots. That very dynamic failed and understandably so. The in-ring was tremendous as expected, although paced at near Tanahashi slow main event levels, with added violence in the mix because of the upscale in hoss-ness vs. pureness. Right after Ishii’s “I almost forgot to kick out” moment, things started to kick into full gear, something we’ve wished these guys to be involved in together for a long time. A Backbreaker on the outside, too many chops, forearms, one-up offense, top rope moves than you could imagine. After a superplex, mix of Roddy’s favorite signature moves, as well as a sick kick, Ishii still managed to kick out. Roddy pulled down his knee pad but Ishii struck back and hit what he thought was the final lariat of the match. It wasn’t! A barrage of offense from both men but a sliding lariat cause Roddy to still power out as I believe Milano screamed “OH SHIT!” Tomohiro Ishii, seconds later, wins the ROH World Television Championship with a brainbuster. Wow. Roddy is heartbroken as Ishii calmly, like a boss, celebrates his win, at least on the inside more than the outside. Great moment but very surprising.
Ishii : I accept any challenge from ROH guys.I can destroy ROH itselt.
— enuhito(English) (@enuhito_eng) February 19, 2016
That was Night 1 of Honor Rising. A lot of people set the expectation bar extremely high for the show, and I can only assume most will be slightly let down. The show was fun and easy to take in, but there wasn’t much there in terms of match quality aside from Kazarian/KUSHIDA (which still was just mostly decent), the 6 man tag which may actually still be my match of the night, and the main event in which a dream match took place and Tomohiro Ishii won the ROH World Television Championship. I’m so excited for Ishii’s run, no matter how short, and I’m hopeful that the match vs. Goto next Friday is for that very belt. The rest of the show that hasn’t been mentioned is completely skippable, but for the sake of these cross promotion shows that don’t happen too often in these cirumstances, and other gems that don’t equate to in-ring work, go ahead and give the whole show a spin. I’m happy I got to watch the Samurai TV version of the show, and with that being said, we’ll see you tomorrow morning for the NJPWWorld.com exclusive Night 2 show.