(05/17) A.J. Styles (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin

Ring of Honor
Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, New York)
IWGP Heavyweight Championship 

Michael Elgin versus one of the three big names from New Japan (Okada, Tanahashi & Nakamura) was the match ROH fans were pining for when the joint cards were announced in February.  Elgin is a divisive wrestler.  For the most part, the core ROH fan base loves him.  He uses big time power moves, doesn’t sell a whole lot, and carries himself like an indestructible bad ass despite being well under six feet tall and sporting the Hulk Hogan/Randy Savage balding mullet look.

Other fans, well, they see those same things but see them as minuses rather than pluses.  Elgin uses big moves to an extreme (turn buckle power bombs are sometimes early match moves), he doesn’t sell well, and his look is not what we typically associate with big star.  He is a good example of beauty being in the eye of the beholder when it comes to wrestling.

The booking of this three way match reflects that division on Elgin even if that was not necessarily the intent.  His supporters did not get the big singles opportunity they were clamoring for, but they do get to see him wrestle for the IWGP Heavyweight title in the main event.  Those who don’t care for Elgin’s ring work have to see him in the main event, but in a much more reduced role than if it were a singles match.  Everybody wins (or maybe just nobody loses).

The match was filled with the typical issues that plague the three way match.  A wrestler would be dumped to the outside for minutes at a time while the other two battled in the ring.  It is not impossible to have a good or even great three way match, but the odds are usually against it.  The flow often ends up being so unusual as guys are forced to tailor their selling around whether they are an active participant at any given time.  In this match, the three sold like they were dead when out of the match and were back at it when needed which is par for the course in three ways.  It is a pace that is hard to get into as a viewer.

The end was well-executed and likely the main reason NJPW championed for the match.  Okada nailed Elgin with the Rainmaker, only for Styles to land a well-timed springboard lariat on the former champion.  The blow caused Okada to naturally roll out of the ring.  Styles quickly scooped up an already out-of-it Elgin, hit the Styles Clash, and “stole” the victory.

If the inherent pacing and selling issues of three-way matches don’t bother you, than you’ll find this to be pretty good I would imagine.  If not, then this was another in a long line of three-way matches that was unable to overcome the obstacles the gimmick match creates.

3-Way | Common | Intrigue

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