The G1 Supercard had many different jobs to do, and by and large, it achieved them for NJPW. They got some titles on people they needed to be on, they expanded their audience. Even Rev Pro had a barn burner to celebrate in Zack Sabre Jnr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi. ROH meanwhile did their level best to fall flat on their faces in front of an international audience.
It all started well enough. The Honor Rumble was a nice variation on a theme of a Royal Rumble style match. What was telling was the noise that the crowd gave for the NJPW wrestlers. ROH was presented as equals, but the big stars were clearly in the NJPW camp. There were some great surprises with The Great Muta being the biggest, while there were grumbles when Kenny King had a sneaky win, it does mean he will relish in actual heat so that was short term loss over long term gain.
Things started to go really wrong when the Women of Honor title match started. While Kelly Klein isn’t my favourite wrestler she has done a lot to improve herself over the last two years. Mayu Iwatani is a better wrestler than most of the men on this card so it would be hard to be bad. Moving Klein into being a fan favourite was sensible, as it gives her more options in the long run as the new champion, however, the post-match beat down that sets up her next run came from an unusual source. Angelina Love and Velvet Sky were thought to be long retired and while they are experienced pros, they go against the very nature of everything that Women of Honor is supposed to be about. Mandy Leon has been set as their figurehead and long term challenger to Klein, the fans were not impressed. They like pure wrestling, and stories based on you know, honour. It is very hard to gain traction with that particular fan base. Baby steps are required to bring them along because they were never meant to be a mainstream promotion. It is, in fact, a miracle they’ve got this far. 17 years ago they were promoting in armouries to a niche DVD-only audience. Moving the needle has been glacially slow. It would also point out that the reason why this angle worked in Impact wrestling was, because people actually cared about the Knockout’s division. While WOH has tried really hard, ROH has not put nearly enough gas on the pedal to make the division and as a result, what has been a nice refreshing change in match presentation has been shanghaied into a nonsensical mess.
When The Elite left, New Japan looked around shrugged and got on with it. They still had Okada, Naito, Tanahashi, Suzuki, Jay White, Juice Robinson and they were not worried. Chase Owens went from an opening match workhorse to a main eventer in six weeks. They did what they always did. Made stars and moved on. Ring of Honor in the meantime made some interesting choices. The kept working with the NWA, signed indie darlings like Brody King and PCO and pushed established stars like Matt Taven and Marty Scurll. These bold ideas have somewhat been undone by the apparent endorsed invasion of Enzo and Big Cass.
The signing of the former Beautiful People makes some sense in a “We’re taking over” kind of way, but what happened at the end of the Tag Team four-way match for the ROH and IWGP Tag Titles was particularly inept. As Voices of Wrestling reported, upper management, not the creative team booked the “Artists formerly known as.”. The creative team, now reportedly including Bully Ray, baulked at the idea, but didn’t have a choice. That meant the presentation was half-hearted, trying to give a viral impression with Bully and the Briscoes beating down the invaders, it largely happened off camera. The commentators either seemed actively disappointed that it was happening and ignored it.
Enzo and Cass are everything Ring of Honor fans despise. They were both released to the relief of their respective locker rooms were they were deemed as malcontents, the ROH locker room isn’t a vacuum, they have friends at WWE as half the WWE roster used to be in ROH, so it will be interesting to see how they are received but Tama Tonga gives you a clue in his usual style;
— Jude Kilgour (@judekilgour) April 8, 2019
The show was by no means a disaster, but with NJPW splitting off for their next shows in the US will be seen as a blessing. It will be a while before the two camps join forces again, and after this, you have to wonder if it would be worth New Japan’s effort.