The Lowell Memorial Auditorium was once again treated to an action-packed night of squared circle mayhem as Ring of Honor brought their All-Star Extravaganza pay-per-view event to the Mill City. The best way to describe the ROH product for the uninitiated is to call it pro wrestling with a side of sports entertainment.
WWE’s presentation favors the reverse ideology, but there is a die-hard fan base that ROH caters to that’s not into all the pomp, circumstance, and melodrama. The storylines are simple enough to follow, but it’s the matches that keep the ROH faithful coming back for more.
My fellow wrestling promoting partner in crime, Ryan and I attended the show with piqued interest since neither us of go to Ring of Honor shows that often. In fact, this was only my third ROH live experience and my first in twelve years. Plus, some of the biggest moments in wrestling history have occurred in Lowell, and All-Star Extravaganza could provide another.
The merchandise table is always the first thing on my to-do list. ROH t-shirts were selling for $25.00 a pop while anything labeled with the insignia of the nWo esque renegade faction, The Bullet Club, sold for $35.00. The ten dollar price difference didn’t deter a single soul as the shirts were moving fast.
There was a meet and greet held before the event where fans could receive an autograph and a picture with the stars of ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Now, when I was training to become a wrestler, I was taught that it’s taboo to pay for a wrestler’s picture and or autograph. I don’t wrestle much anymore as these days, I work behind the scenes with multiple promotions in various capacities.
Still, the stern warnings from days gone by along with the threat of extra Hindu squats hung over my head like a dark cloud. I’ve met several of the ROH wrestlers through personal contacts, but this might be my only chance to meet some of the New Japan talent since they primarily work in Japan. After a while, I realized I was being silly and gleefully handed over my credit card.
Let’s talk about some of the matches.
- Bobby Fish defeated Donovan Dijak to retain the ROH TV title:
The first bout of the evening saw a David vs. Goliath affair where Fish successfully defend the television title when he choked out the much larger Donovan Dijak. Dijak was a massive hometown favorite who came up through the New England independent wrestling scene. “Someone is definitely going to sign this guy” instantly entered my mind when I saw Dijak for the first time during an Atlantic Pro Wrestling show in Newbury, MA.
Fans in attendance were disappointed that Dijak didn’t win, but I understand the decision to keep Fish over. ROH is primarily a national product with various streams of international distribution. Dijak is a heel, so changing the finish to have him win wouldn’t be the right call simply because the event is held in the one place on Earth where he’s a babyface.
- Dragon Lee defeated Kamaitachi:
Their feud finally landed stateside and produced a match that was a demonstration of impressive moves as opposed to a contested bout. After a while, there seemed to be no story at all and the two grapplers just took turns doing moves to each other to see who could garner the loudest reaction. A lot of people liked this match, but it wasn’t my cup of tea and Ryan walked out on the match in protest.
- 6-Man Tag Team Tournament – Round 1: Jay White, ACH & KUSHIDA defeated Toru Yano, & The Briscoes:
This was my favorite match of the show. All six wrestlers worked well together while bringing something different to the table, especially in the case of Toru Yano. The action, maneuvers and ring psychology made me forget where I was and kept me guessing from bell to bell.
- Jay Lethal defeated Tetsuya Naito:
This is the match that I paid to see, and for the most part, I was satisfied with the finished product. Lethal rushed to the ring and jumped Naito before the bell, which surprised me since that type of thing isn’t customary on a big ROH show. It made perfect sense because Naito walked out on Lethal in their tag team match a few weeks ago.
Move for move, hold for hold, Lethal and Naito are two of the best wrestlers on the planet today. Lethal got the clean win, which surprised me since Naito is the IWGP Intercontinental Champion and New Japan usually doesn’t like their champions losing matches in other promotions.
- ROH World Tag Team Championship – Ladder War 6: The Young Bucks defeated vs. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) and Motor City Machine Guns to become the new tag team champions:
The phrase “Ladder War” perfectly describes this match in every single way imaginable. This was unbelievable. The chaos that ensued began at crazy and ended at damn near suicidal as I went from cheering on the mayhem to slowing cringing in fear of the wrestler’s safety.
The Young Bucks are the most popular wrestlers not in WWE and EVERYBODY in the Auditorium wanted them to win the titles, which they did. At one point, Nick Jackson did a 450 splash off the top rope, to the floor, and through a table.
- Closing Thoughts
It was evident from an in-person experience that the wrestlers and everyone else involved with ROH worked very hard to put on a great show. The company still has some work to do in order to break through on a mainstream level. Unfortunately, the majority of the United States wrestling audience requires more drama and dynamic personalities mixed in with their grappling.
Speaking of personalities, the colorful and peacock feathered Dalton Castle might be the most popular wrestler in ROH. The man could do no wrong as the fans were with him every step of the way.
All of the matches told a different story and most of them worked while others hit the right notes, but failed to play any music. Ladder War 6 was a wrestling video game come to life. I honestly don’t know how anyone will be able to top this ladder match without someone dying, and I don’t want that to happen, ever.