Ian's View: Global Wars

Early Monday morning, my flight arrived into Philadelphia International Airport. As the blissful reality set in that I would soon see my beautiful wife Sarah and my now almost-walking son Zach, I hastily made my way to my car. 

And for the first time in five days, I exhaled.

As the lead announcer for Ring of Honor Wrestling, it was no bigger honor and privilege than to call the multitude of dream matches between ROH and New Japan Pro-Wrestling stars that took place. And, as always, it is always tremendous to be in the booth with accomplished wrestlers who are also as smart, witty, and funny as Colt Cabana and BJ Whitmer. But by Monday morning, we all headed home.

Everyone gave it their absolute all and left anything that they had left in the tank in Chicago. I would be remiss not to give a gigantic shout out to our production crew. The tireless efforts of all involved, all of which had much longer days and nights, who were tasked with our first-ever live broadcast for Ringside Members and entrusted with delivery of one of the biggest events in ROH history, Global Wars – Chicago did not go unnoticed and they knocked it out of the park.

But now, as the dust clears, it is time to make some sense of it.

History Was Made

ROH continues to grow and that speaks to the international bevvy of A-list talent that comes through Ring of Honor’s doors. The competition in ROH has made it a destination for top new talent like Marty Scurll, Flip Gordon, Shane Taylor, and many more and now, ROH has grown so much that international stars like Bully Ray and ROH World Champion Cody, who we will get to later, have made it their home.

For the first time ever, ROH sold out four consecutive events on four consecutive nights and did so in four different cities. In fact, the quickest sellout in ROH history came resulted in the second-largest live audience in ROH history while the other three stops on the Global Wars Tour were record-breaking crowds for ROH in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Columbus. 

It was the first time ROH went live across ROHWrestling.com, broadcasting our Pittsburgh and Columbus stops for free for our Ringside Members.  I have heard great feedback and I hope that we are able to do much more of this in the future. In Ring of Honor, every match counts and our stars always give it their all, and some of our best bouts are found on our live event DVDs and VODs so like our fans, I am rooting for increased visibility of our events to bring these to a larger audience.

For the first time, the fantastic Women of Honor appeared live on a ROH broadcast. The Women of Honor continue to impress and made the most of their opportunity on this tour, most notably Sumie Sakai, who competed on all four nights of the tour! Our COO Joe Koff mentioned that we would see these stars on our live broadcasts and I can only imagine that this is only the beginning, especially when “The Gatekeeper” Kelly Klein and Scarlett Bourdeaux return from Stardom and as the ranks get bolstered with new talent like Brandi Rhodes, Stella Grey, Holidead, Stacey Shadows, and more.

For the first time ever, fans along the tour were able to see the legendary Minoru Suzuki compete for the very first time in each of the four cities he competed in. And for the first time in nearly 20 months, Ring of Honor fans in the United States were able see the IWGP United States Champion “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega compete live in a ROH ring.

Dalton Castle Is Back

Adorned in an American Flag ski mask, a fan with a #BeingTheElite sign was seen getting autographs prior to the event. It was a very noticeable outfit and even I made a comment to BJ Whitmer prior to going live as we did a production camera check minutes before we went live in Chicago. The ROH World Champion, “The American Nightmare” Cody had been celebrating with fans each night after each event and in Chicago he decided to preemptively celebrate. 

Cody brought the fan we had noticed into the ring.

It was not a fan.

Dalton Castle returned for the first time after being attacked following the War of the Worlds – Edinburgh event by Cody. Castle had answered Cody’s open challenge following Cody’s victory over Sanada live on iPPV at War of the Worlds – Liverpool. Cody yelled out “you’re a gimmick, you’re not a wrestler” as he pounded away on Castle.

It was time for Castle to get his revenge in Chicago. The last we saw from Castle was after he interrupted a ROH social media exclusive interview with Best Friends. “I just came by to say congratulations! (Cody) signed a big deal with Ring of Honor, I think that’s great. I think it’s funny because I ALSO signed a new deal with Ring of Honor and if the two of us are going to be hunkered down in the same company, I just wanted to let him know I would be kicking his ass for a long time,” before apologizing to Berretta and Chuckie T.

It was a blemish on an otherwise incredible tour for Bullet Club.

Bullet Club Rules the Day

It took just days for thousands of tickets to be sold for Global Wars – Chicago and it was after only one name was announced: Kenny Omega. The leader of Bullet Club returned to United States and proved exactly why he is Elite. Omega was one of a handful of stars, a group that also includes ROH World Champion Cody, to compete on all four stops of the tour and go undefeated in competition. Omega loves to ask for “2 Boots” in his matches and we saw “10 Boots” each night on the tour. The ROH Board of Directors needs to issue a statement on that for future tours.

It was Bullet Club’s success that propelled many fans to pack the houses. In our Facebook Live Broadcasts, Prince Nana and I referred to these guys as rock stars and we may have been too modest in our assessment. Each night, as their van pulled up to each building, hundreds of fans were there hours early to try to get a glimpse and to snap a selfie with members of Bullet Club. And each night, as we hurriedly tried to pack into our bus or vans to head to the next town, hundreds more waited the same. 

As an announcer, it is sometimes difficult to reconcile the tactics they use in the ring versus the guys I see on the road. In the ring, they sometimes cheat, gloat, and showboat. But outside the ring, I have never seen a group of guys so in tune with their fans. That is why, on every stop of the tour, Bullet Club’s meet and greet lines literally wrapped around the building. That is why, at the end of every night, after Bullet Club reigned supreme, fans rushed the guardrails to get selfies. And that is why each crowd was a sea of various Bullet Club t-shirts and merchandise.

Athletically, Bullet Club may have no more gifted athlete than Adam Page, and that is an incredible statement considering Matt and Nick Jackson are in Bullet Club, as well. At over 220 lbs, Hangman got serious hang time but also displayed amazing power each night. Marty Scurll was victorious as part of the Luxury Trio against Chaos in Pittsburgh and picked up a huge win over Hiromu Takahashi, asserting himself as a top contender for Will Ospreay’s IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. 

The Young Bucks were the Young Bucks – there is an electricity, a feeling that can’t be described when the duo makes their way through the curtain. The Young Bucks and Omega had one of my favorite matches of the weekend against Best Friends and Flip Gordon in one half of Saturday’s main event.

But one of the stories for me coming out of Global Wars is the World Champion, Cody. Cody has now defeated several New Japan stars and relayed to a global Facebook Live preshow audience night after night that he took pride in helping keep the ROH vs. NJPW head-to-head record close, which sits at 55-56-1 following the weekend’s tour.  Cody’s presence has increased numbers across the board and it took me by surprise that he was so pro-ROH but he quickly clarified that he is truly pro Elite and pro Bullet Club and believes Bullet Club has the best record in the friendly series of dream matches. 

Cody picked up another big win, this time defending a style of wrestler in KUSHIDA that he has never faced before. Cody studied well and quickly escaped a Hoverboard Lock and was able to avoid Back to the Future and won with Crossrhodes in Columbus. As he takes out one challenger at a time, it looks like Cody has the world in his hands. As he celebrated with fans each night, his hubris got the best of him when he invited one final fan into the ring...

New Faces Make Their Mark on the Big Stage

While much of the news this weekend was centered around Bullet Club, many in ROH took it to new levels and significantly increased their stock.

The pride of Kalispell, MT was perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the spotlight of the Global Wars Tour. Any time anyone is in the ring with Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, or Will Ospreay, the attention goes to directly to you.

And I have never seen anyone step up their game as much as Flip Gordon did this weekend. 

Gordon went toe-to-toe in the main event, arm-in-arm with Best Friends against the Elite in the second half of the double main event in Columbus. And then delivered a star-making performance, going move for move with the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay in Chicago. If you’re listening ROH Board of Directors – I could watch those two compete over and over and over again. Let’s make this happen – Flip earned a rematch in my opinion.

His partners in Columbus had a tremendous weekend, as well. Best Friends, Chuck Taylor and Trent Berretta, were a known-quantity on the independent scene but made their tag team debut in Lowell, MA at Best in the World. Since then, they have picked up wins in ROH and become one of ROH’s most popular tag teams. Chuckie T.’s Awful Waffle is unabashedly my favorite move in professional wrestling and he connected with it on Omega in Columbus but the biggest statement that was made for me was Berretta, newly a heavyweight in New Japan, connecting with the Dude Buster on Omega during Chicago’s main event. Was that a shot fired? Is Berretta throwing his hat into the IWGP US Title hunt?

While Gordon and Best Friends increased their stock and popularity this weekend, another trio, much more disliked by the fans, certainly gained respect from Bullet Club. Matt Taven has the Kingdom running on all cylinders, taking Bullet Club to the limit in Buffalo before TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia wrestled the match of their lives against ROH World Tag Team Champions the Motor City Machine Guns and Young Bucks in Pittsburgh, not figuring in the decision. While they go home with no ROH gold, and as much as this pains me to say this, Marseglia and O’Ryan have a lot to be proud of, stepping up their game under the leadership of Matt Taven.

Shane Taylor stepped up to the plate and put himself in a big situation, replacing the injured Mark Briscoe, who dislocated his elbow in Pittsburgh. While we wish Chicken the best, Taylor proved he was a big match fighter, beating Josh Woods in Columbus before going toe-to-toe with three of the toughest men in the world, Minoru Suzuki and Killer Elite Squad. 

Punishment Martinez had what many believed to be the match of the night, an absolute war against Will Ospreay in Buffalo. Martinez continues to deliver in big situations and keeps the momentum he earned after defeating Jay White in a Vegas Street Fight at Death Before Dishonor.

Speaking of Jay White, he delivered against Jay Lethal in Pittsburgh and he and Johnathan Gresham delivered in their first ROH main event. In front of thousands of fans partial to Bullet Club, Gresham and White kept their cool in the ring teaming with the Motor City Machine Guns against the World and World Six Man Tag Team Champions. 

Momentum for ROH Stars

Jay Lethal was the only ROH star to win three-straight singles matches and did so against top-flight competition like Kaz, Jay White, and Hiromu Takahashi. Lethal needed these victories to get back in the title picture after losing a violent Last Man Standing Match against Silas Young at Death Before Dishonor. 

Young, a man who can write his own ticket, has chosen to compete in singles and tags, looking to capitalize on his huge win while also competing with Beer City Bruiser in tag team action. Young and Bruiser defeated Best Friends by using a keg of Beer City Brew in Chicago, an odd choice considering foreign objects a match he was in control of against the legendary Minoru Suzuki in Pittsburgh.

And the Addiction finally got back on track. As BJ, Colt, and I noted throughout the weekend, the Addiction’s new attitude hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire inside the ring. As they say they are out to ruin everything fans love about ROH in retaliation for what they think is the fans turning their backs on them, they struggled  to pick up victories. In Columbus, they beat White and Gresham and in Chicago, they beat Cheeseburger and KUSHIDA, known as 94 Burger. Their energy is best spent in the ring, in my opinion, because nobody wants to see them interrupt ROH action and they are one of the best tag teams in the world.

The celebration didn’t last long in Chicago, however.

Bully Ray’s Last Table May Have Been Broken

As the Addiction looked to make an example of Cheeseburger, setting up to put him through a table, Bully Ray, as he did in his debut, emerged to make the save. 

But, this time, the speech after the save was different.

If this is it for Bully, from the bottom of my heart, it was an honor and a privilege and we’re all glad you made ROH part of your career.

Jay Briscoe Speaks

A man Bully has been closely associated with, former ROH World Champion, finally spoke and did so in Chicago. Jay wished his brother well and is hoping that Mark will be back soon so they can win the tag team titles again. We echo that statement, Jay. Get well soon, Mark.

The history-making Global Wars Tour is in the books and for everyone in ROH, we thank you so much for joining us along the way. It is because of your support that ROH continues to grow and deliver these incredible events.

Happy Wrestling,