I think the best way to tackle this post is to review both nights of the Raising the Bar event(s) from March 7th & 8th 2014. I'm going to give the major take-away points rather than my somewhat longer reviews of the matches in most cases. These were fantastic shows put on by Ring of Honor that haven't gotten much hype.
Night #1 - Milwaukee, WI
Silas Young vs Jay Lethal: These guys are well suited to work with one another. The size and athleticism is compatible. The crowd was into this especially with the hometown Silas support. A worthwhile opening contest and a very good match.
Tyson Dux vs Michael Bennett: This was your simple tough muscle guy kinda match. It was the right length and in the right spot to keep the energy up. Good match.
Outlaw Inc. (Homicide & Eddie Kingston) vs Adrenaline Rush (ACH & Tadarius Thomas) vs reDRagon: This match could have been great but, was hampered by an X-division-like stipulation where Outlaw and Rush need to pin the champs to win the titles, if they pin each other or DRagon pins them then the titles don't change hands. This is made very clear (too clear) by Nigel & Kevin Kelly. HOWEVER the wrestlers didn't seem to know this, didn't care, or forgot. They worked the match like a "normal" 3 way dance tag match- first fall eliminates the one team then, the remaining teams fight for a winner. For the sake of your enjoyment, mute this so you cannot hear Nigel talk about how much these guys are fucking up the logic of the match. Because, LOGICALLY, all Outlaw or Rush would need to do is pin reDRagon and the match would be over AND they'd be new tag champs. Again, this would be a much quicker and focused match if it was worked this way. So, there was major miscommunication between the announcers, the wrestlers, etc. and it is a head scratcher at times since they do a PWG free-for-all. It's fun but, kinda stupid and long.
Cedric Alexander & Adam Page vs BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs: Fortunately, this simple match gets the show back on track. This match had a good story (this was early Decade stuff) and Roddy sitting in with Corino & Kelly was helpful.
Roderick Strong vs Chris Hero: Metropolis' own is recently back from his first NXT stint to start his back to the Indies tour (which got him back to NXT with a giant gut). This is a great hard hitting match like you would expect. Solid **** stuff. Here again, I will criticize the commentary. Jimmy Jacobs and Corino are jaw jacking like it's a shoot interview. It's good information and certainly is part of the Decade's grizzles/jaded veteran gimmick but, it DETRACTS from the action inside the ring. Again, you'd be wise to mute or turn down the volume. Then, of you want to hear their inside baseball watch the match again with the volume turned up.
-So, at this point I've decided to watch the Main Event with the sound off-
Kevin Steen & the Young Bucks vs Michael Elgin & the Briscoes: The talent involved was going to produce a very good match with very little effort. I had expected this going in. However, I did not expect this to be a classic bell to bell action bout. Elgin's ability to catch & carry, the Buck's speed and bumping, Steen & the Briscoes historical chemistry and veteran smarts made this something special. Additionally, everything was masterfully executed with teases & fake-outs to keep you on your toes. They opted for smart interactions rather than trendy yet predicable ones. That really is what I need to see as a longtime fan. That and the fact that everyone was as tough as nails meant this wasn't over until it was OVER. Classic ROH 6 man match!
-It was so awesome that I thought it was the end of the show! But, we have one more-
Adam Cole vs Matt Taven: Cole defends the recently won ROH World title against Matt Taven who has impressed me here in the 2013-14s but also on the current ROH show. The dude is talented. BUT let me get this out of the way: He whiffed big time on a suicide dive. I don't know what happened but Cole was like a foot in the wrong direction and Taven ate floor. Like a professional he & Cole went on to have a very good match. Seriously, that little miss was the ONLY blemish on this otherwise wonderful underdog title fight. Taven was only in the TV champ position so, the goal was more to have the Panama City Playboy be a fighting champ and raise Taven's stock a little bit. After the match the true contenders [Hero, Elgin, Steen, Jay Briscoe? (I can't remember. In my notes I wrote Elgin twice for some reason)]. confront Adam to stake their claim on the belt.
Night One summary: Pretty damn great show! I rarely watch a DVD from start to finish in a sitting but, this one had a great pace and kept me entertained. This is a must see or must buy as it's on sale or clearance. You've got two very good matches (Lethal/Young & Cole/Taven), a great hard hitting vet match (Hero/Strong) and a classic 6 man (Bucks & Steen/Briscoes & Elgin).
Night #2 - Chicago Ridge, IL
Tyson Dux vs Michael Elgin: Teacher vs pupil. Corino and Kevin Kelly are already having their own fucking show :/ but the in-ring action tops whatever they're blathering on about. A good match with an impressive finishing stretch. Everything looked organic and necessary. Elgin puts over Dux, nice! Good way to open the show.
Adrenaline Rush vs BJ Whitmer & Roderick Strong: Those Decade shirts are pretty ill. Adam Page is now their quasi-young boy which is funny to see nowadays. I frankly like him better then. Anyhow, this is a good tag encounter. Rod is especially nasty. Wait til he spits at Tadarius Thomas and nearly hits the lady in the front row. She's like "What the Fuck!?" Good action match and a fine #2 bout.
Jay Lethal vs Mike Bennett: Maria adds something to Bennett's aura...um...those aren't pants. Anyhow, this was a very good match where the solid wrestling cliches worked very well and kept the energy up. A bit of comedy, good wrestling, there's nothing to hate here
Outlaw Inc. vs the Briscoes: Yeah, this lived up to its potential for greatness. It took me backto 2006 with 'cide & Jay locking up...man I got goosebumps! This is that throwing shit, face smashing wrestling that you want. Heck this took me back to '98 as it was like an ECW tag title fight. Great stuff!
Matt Taven vs Silas Young: A short but effective match to follow up that maddness. Watch for Taven's kick to Silas' head! Fun!
Kevin Steen vs Cedric Alexander: I felt Steen was leading Cedric through a "by-the-numbers good match." Very WWE style where technically its sound but, lacks that 'umph' in the intensity department.
reDRagons vs the Young Bucks: Tag titles are on the line. Matt's arm is in a cast which Fish & O'Reilly focus on. This is appreciated! Also, there are some nice wrinkles to standard spots from each team and some truly believable false finishes. Again, I like wrestling to be surprising This match really was nothing to sneeze at and the Bucks had two amazing nights of wrestling. I tend to downplay them nowadays because they receive so much praise for what I think to be old hat schtick. But in 2014, they still put their all into the rings as did Fish and O'Reilly. Great **** level tag title match.
Adam Cole vs Chris Hero: ROH World Championship on the line. There's backstory here which the announcers provide. Hero made Cole submit to the "Stretch Plum!!-Stretch Plum!!" ...sorry Kawada flashback...Hero made Cole submit at the Anniversary show but, the ref wasn't there to call it. So, match-maker Nigel McGuinness gave Chris a shot under the Ring Master's Challenge stipulation. This is a 2/3 falls match where it's pinfall only, then submission only, and finally a 15 minute iron man if needed. I'm sure this gimmick match has some logic but, I fail to see it. Have it be submission only OR 2/3 falls OR an Iron man- why all 3? It's OK, I don't have a problem with it per se but, it doesn't really benefit Hero. Cole can win by pinfall, he can make you tap with this Figure Four, and he's in great shape so an Iron Man is no problem. Same with Hero - elbows to KO, stretch plum, and proven wrestling machine. *sigh* Anyhow, the stipulations were worked really well by the two, the layout was nice, and they put on a very good match. Not amazing or ground breaking but, very good overall.
Night Two summary: A very good night of wrestling with no low points unlike night #1's Tag Team bungle. Two Great tag matches in two different styles, a very good gimmick title match and everything else was very enjoyable. I'd say it is a notch below night #1 BUT, it felt like it ran smoother due to that weird reDRagon/Rush/Outlaws match. That being said, I have no regrets getting this show.
Raising the Bar was a two night success in my book and with many of these guys being stars in NXT right now, it only makes sense to check these shows out if you weren't sure. Or like me, you want to see them beforehand
Thanks for reading!