ROH From The Ashes 3/26/2010

ROH 252 – From The Ashes – 26th March 2010

For some reason there’s no HDNet show for two consecutive weeks, so without a break for TV ROH now steamrolls from Toronto to Phoenix for their annual ‘piggyback on WrestleMania’ weekend, before the big North Carolina debut show on iPPV at the start of April. ROH always looks to present itself at its very best for Mania weekend – with the opportunity to reach as many potential new fans as possible. However, for the first time this year they have some real competition. As booker of ROH when they first ran shows alongside Wrestlemania – 2006 in Chicago Ridge as part of the Milestone Series – Gabe Saposky witnessed the benefits of running in conjunction with WrestleMania first hand. This year he brings his Dragon Gate USA promotion to Phoenix too, and runs in direct competition with Ring Of Honor for the first time. At first glance the DGUSA cards look really strong, with a better venue, lots of guest stars (like Tommy Dreamer, Paul London, Jack Evans etc), great matches and of course, the phenomenally talented Japanese Dragon Gate roster. The rivalry between the promotions was fierce in the build up, with DGUSA even offering discounted tickets to those who had bought tickets to ROH shows but wanted to go to Dragon Gate instead. But ROH actually delivered a massive blow in the run in when it was announced that, with neither side able to schedule his matches so he could appear on all shows, Davey Richards had quit Dragon Gate USA and Evolve (where he was set to be the top star) promotions to concentrate on his ROH commitments. Even if this weekend is probably secondary in significance to The Big Bang in Charlotte next month, and despite having a weaker looking line-up than anyone else running Phoenix this weekend, ROH will still want to produce two top quality nights of wrestling and look to convert as many new fans to their alternative pro-wrestling brand as possible. To that end both nights have lots to look forward to. They both have ‘Personal Challenge Gauntlets’ featuring Tyler Black, Roderick Strong and Austin Aries ahead of The Big Bang triple threat ROH Title Match. The American Wolves claim their Tag Title rematch against the Briscoes tonight, whilst Jerry Lynn is looking for revenge on Kenny King and El Generico is out for Steve Corino’s blood. Commentary from Phoenix, AZ comes from Dave Prazak and Joe Dumbrowski.

SIDENOTE – Is there a more pointless feud anywhere than the ROH vs DGUSA/Evolve squabble? I appreciate there are some personal feelings on both sides but having these two independent powerhouse promotions at loggerheads is NOT beneficial to the fans at all. Running head to head shows is just insane since both feds share the same fanbase – thereby denting your potential attendance. And with each side signing their workers up to their ceremonial ‘exclusive contracts’  (which basically permit the talent to work anywhere, sign for WWE or TNA any time they like but NOT work for the ‘other’ side) it means you’re depriving fans of the strongest possible talent line-ups (again, denting potential attendance/DVD sales) and forcing workers to ‘pick a side’ and potentially lose bookings. Has ANYONE benefited from the messy Davey Richards situation? DGUSA and Evolve are left without one of their top stars. DGUSA fans are left disappointed as Davey won’t make his advertised bookings this weekend, ROH has spent the last few months sidelining him so have a job on their hands to rebuild a guy fans were holding up as a future World Champion and Richards himself loses out on future dates and paydays with Gabe’s promotions, who I’m sure pay more and are more reliable than many independent promotions he could work for when he’s not in Japan or in ROH. Like I said, I know there are some personal issues here what with Gabe’s history with ROH. And I know both sides are competitive and desperate to be the ‘top indy company’ so to speak. But not working together this weekend has damaged both promotions. Not sharing talent this weekend has damaged all four line-ups. Not working out a way to stagger their bell times to allow fans to attend both shows will put a serious dent in the potential attendance figures they could have. I’m not saying Gabe and Cary have to kiss and make up, or they need to get so tight they do a big ‘interpromotional war’ storyline a-la ROH vs CZW. But a little common sense should have prevailed here, and the petty, childish heat between the respective parties has to stop…

Joey Ryan vs Shawn Daivari vs Johnny Goodtime vs Rasche Brown vs Human Tornado vs Colt Cabana
Six Man Mayhem gets us underway here. It’s ROH in-ring debuts for PWG regular Johnny Goodtime and new Embassy recruit Shawn Daivari, who we saw debut on the most recent episode of ROH on HDNet. Human Tornado is in ROH this weekend for his last appearances before he retires from pro-wrestling. Skullkrusher (who’s name is typo’d on the DVD packaging in an inexcusable error) is always a threat in this match format.

Tornado gets a monster pop for his entrance, such is the affection everyone has for him. Goodtime looks like the lovechild of Joey Ryan and Chris Hero. He and Tornado quickly botch a leapfrog spot but quickly get on the same page for a tight little exchange. Brown in, and he sends Johnny flying across the ring with a single punch…but his dominance is short-lived as The Embassy of Ryan and Daivari double team him. Cabana saves Rasche…but that means he’s the one that gets stuck wrestling Skullkrusher instead. He uses his humour to stall until Ryan and Daivari can drag him out of the ring to assault him on the floor. Joey in to hit a pumphandle suplex on Goodtime then run through Brown on the floor with an elbow suicida. Daivari falls in ugly fashion out of the ring before Colt hits an ASAI MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR to wipe out three guys. STEREO SOMERSAULT PLANCHAS from Tornado and Goodtime! The Embassy are up first and look to start teaming up on everyone again, but once again it’s broken up by Skullkrusher and his Rolling Spear on Joey. Flying Asshole from Colt to Rasche. Tornado drops Daivari on his neck then turns into a superkick from Ryan leaving everyone down. Skullkrusher clears the ring…RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE OVER THE TOP ROPE! In the ring Cabana puts the Billy Goat’s Curse on Goodtime who taps at 09:00

Rating – *** – This was an almost perfect way to start a live event. This is an ROH show with a large number of attendees who aren’t overly familiar with the product, angles and characters. Beginning with a spotfest/comedy match (this had elements of both) was a good way to rev the crowd up and ensure that even those who don’t necessarily know all that much about Ring Of Honor still had a good time.

Kings Of Wrestling vs Scott Lost/Scorpio Sky
We have a second outing in ROH for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla stalwarts Scott Lost and Scorpio Sky. They made their debuts at SoCal Showdown in a losing effort to Colt Cabana and El Generico, but get another chance to earn future bookings here. However, to do that they’ll need to overcome the dominant, newly-reformed Kings Of Wrestling. Hero and Claudio have looked imperious teaming together since they reunited at Final Battle 2009 and are looking to step up their preparations for The Big Bang when they face the Briscoes with the Tag Titles on the line.

Hero quickly pitches Scorpio to the floor so the Kings can concentrate on Scott Lost. Sky finally saves his partner by dragging Castagnoli out of the ring before athletically diving in to take out Hero too. Prazak and Dumbrowski take some cheap shots at Wrestling Society X which seems a little mean. The SoCal guys have turned their match in their favour and now have Claudio isolated in their corner. They hit a double basement dropkick combo in the corner with such force you can almost see little birdies flapping round Claudio’s head…but such is his power he STILL easily scoops Sky up for a spinebuster/elbow smash combo. Big Swing/Flash Kick combo leaves Scorpio in trouble at the 5 minute mark. Castagnoli then spins head inside out with a brutal European uppercut for 2. As Prazak cracks jokes about Skinner being his favourite wrestler, Scorpio manages to land a jumping knee strike on Hero’s jaw…but is quickly knocked down again with a double big boot from the KOW. STALLING dead-lift gutwrench suplex from Double C which is a freakish feat of strength. SPRINGBOARD CORKSCREW HEADSCISSORS from nowhere by Sky, allowing him to make the hot tag to Lost. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA over the top wipes out Castagnoli and Hagadorn, then Sky comes back in with a tilta-whirl DDT for 2. MASSIVE POP-UP EUROPEAN by Claudio! Lost in with Hero, and he counters the Death Blow with a superkick then flies off the top rope with an elbow drop. Castagnoli nearly decapitates him with a lariat, then picks both opponents up for an incredible DOUBLE BIG SWING! KRS-1 ON LOST! Kings win at 12:45

Rating – *** – Possibly a little long, but as build-up for Briscoes/Kings at Big Bang, this was absolutely fantastic. Lost and Scorpio made great whipping boys, and did a commendable job putting the Kings over as absolute killers. The Briscoes are in their 6th reign as champions now – everybody knows what they’re about. Building the Kings Of Wrestling up as monster challengers is a terrific way to make that 6th run with the belts a memorable one. Some may even view the KOW as the favourites to take the belts in Charlotte.

Alex Koslov angrily rants in Russian in a promo which lasts way too long considering it’s not English and has no subtitles. From what I can gather he’s not happy about having lost so many matches in ROH, and unhappy about how things went down between he and Romero at Final Battle.

Alex Koslov vs Rocky Romero
These guys are big rivals in Mexico…and last time we saw them Romero was making Koslov tap out on American soil – to the Diablo Armbar at Final Battle last year. Koslov is coming for revenge…

Koslov jumps Romero as he makes his way to the ring, such is his determination to avenge the Final Battle defeat. Rocky hits back with some signature kicks and causes the Russian to bail. Romero crouches in the ropes and lures him into an embarrassing miss, leaving him in place for Rocky to hit a tope suicida. CRADLE SUPLEX OVER THE RAILS BY KOSLOV! That’s one way to bring yourself back into a match. Not done, Alex goes to the top rope for a SUICIDE DIVE INTO THE FRONT ROW! Cossack Kicks next, but Romero COUNTERS a third to an Anklelock. Cross Armbreaker locked in only for Koslov to powerbomb him into the buckles. Romero hits back with a jumping DDT out of the corner for 2, but then looks to go aerial again and finds his springboard move countered with a mid-air superkick. Reverse enzi kick flips Alex through the air before Romero takes it to the corner. Diablo Armbar COUNTERED TO A ROLL-UP! Koslov wins at 06:54

Rating – *** – This was a generous rating, but I think the match just about justifies it. Despite a pretty meagre time allocation, this one was every bit as exciting (if not slightly moreso) than it’s Final Battle predecessor with both men holding nothing back to provide 7 minutes of non-stop action. The finish was great as it played up the familiarity between the two and directly referenced their last ROH match where Romero used that Diablo Armbar to put Koslov away. This time Alex was prepared with a counter for it and was rewarded with a victory. It’s a shame they couldn’t book these guys for HDNet since this would have been perfect for the TV show.

In the locker room Prince Nana fires up Bison Smith – who has been brought back to ROH for the weekend by The Embassy to finish Necro Butcher once and for all.

Bison Smith vs Necro Butcher
The issue between the Necro Butcher and The Embassy dates back to last spring. Almost a year later and they STILL hate each other. The Embassy struck a severe blow earlier this year when Erick Stevens turned on Necro to join them – and in the aftermath of that incident the two sides actually had a heated brawl which saw Necro suspended from HDNet after punching out the timekeeper. He’s back for the first time in a while tonight, and is immediately confronted by The Embassy’s most powerful weapon in the returning Bison Smith whom we’ve not seen in a while.

Bison tries to cut Necro off during his entrance, but finds Butcher ready and waiting to throw a chair in his face. No bell as these guys don’t get anywhere near the ring – the fight spills straight into the crowd. Bison busts Necro wide open against a railing, then tries to toss him off the bleachers. Butcher looks to mount a comeback, only to be distracted by Prince Nana which allows Smith to seize the initiative once again. Back at ringside Necro steals the ring bell…which means I don’t think this will ever become an official match. Joey Ryan and Shawn Daivari appear at ringside and drag Bison away…meaning we never got a match at all. The referee awards a ceremonial victory to Necro.

Rating – * – That finish was ridiculous, and the actual brawl/match wasn’t as good as their previous encounter on HDNet – so you can pretty much deem this a failure on all levels. I’ve given it 1* largely for Prince Nana entertaining me to be honest.

Kevin Steen vs Kenny Omega

This is quite a match to toss into a midcard with little hype whatsoever. Steen has been superb as the evil heel with his dickhead-ometer cranked up to 11…and Omega is always great to watch as a charismatic, slightly odd babyface.

The crowd, who have been vocal all night, start raucous ‘Ole’chants to get under Steen’s skin. Mr Wrestling continues to act like a dick so Kenny starts using the ropes to gain leverage in a front facelock – he can cheat too. The opening few minutes are very even, with both men working the mat and trading holds in a relatively sporting fashion. The pace quickens and naturally it’s Omega who gets the advantage there, baseball slide dropkicking his opponent against the railings. He tries the Bermuda Triangle moonsault but Kevin has it scouted and drags him off the turnbuckles. Steen hangs Omega’s shoulder over the top rope, doing some real damage to the arm. Next he hotshots Kenny over the ropes again, then drills his shoulder into the ringpost to continue the attack on that body part. Omega falls out of the ring, much to his detriment as Steen gives chase and starts slamming the arm into the guardrails. His arm is now hanging limp by his side…and when he tries to use the other arm for the Stop Sign Enzi Steen just BITES IT! Dragon Suplex obviously blocked since his arm is a mess, and Mr Wrestling counters with a spinning backbreaker for 2. Canadian Hammers from Omega, but they hurt his arm as much as they hurt Steen, so it’s the Leapfrog Bulldog instead – for 2. If they’re working an arm injury into the match why does Omega not just use the other arm to hit that move? Using his good arm he powers his opponent into an urinage suplex for another nearfall. He still doesn’t have the power to hit the Dragon Suplex though, meaning Steen turns him into a big powerbomb. HANGING DDT in the ropes gets the former ROH Tag Champion another close 2-count. Steen misses the cannonball senton, and Omega looks to capitalise without using the arm by hitting a missile dropkick. Steen goes for the Package Piledriver but it’s countered to the AIR RAID CRASH for 2. Incredibly Omega manages to get Steen onto his shoulders for Croyt’s Wrath, but Steen goes to the eyes to block it and lands on his feet to nail the pumphandle cradlebreaker. STEEN-TON INTO THE KNEES! REVERSE RANA BY OMEGA! ROLLING DRAGON SUPLEXES GET 2! Croyt’s Wrath blocked and Steen hits a low blow. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER…but Kenny kicks out at 2! CRIPPLER CROSSFACE! Omega has no choice but to tap, giving Steen another big win at 17:58

Rating – **** – This was probably more like ***1/2 than 4*, but I’m feeling generous and I thought these guys had great chemistry. Credit to Pearce for giving these guys nearly 20 minutes of midcard ring time to deliver, and they didn’t let him down. They took a while getting going, but all the while told a strong story and never seemed to lose the live crowd – meaning when they kicked in with the big spots the place was really buzzing. Omega’s selling was as poor as ever, but he had enough good things going on with his performance too that I can look past it.

Steve Corino vs El Generico
The man that masterminded Kevin Steen’s twisted descent into evil – Steve Corino – has warned the likes of Colt Cabana and El Generico to stay out of his new friend’s way several times. But with Cabana refusing to let it go, and Generico so messed up by the whole issue that his career is suffering, Steve is here tonight to beat some closure into Steen’s former partner and friend.

Corino jumps Generico in cheap fashion to start the match. That’s such a standard tactic for him that, in truth it hardly gets any heat at all. The luchador knocks Steve outside and nails an Arabian press to the floor. Corino is in full retreat and has to absorb several crashing impacts against the rails before returning to the ring where he’s able to knock Generico back with the running STO. With Corino in charge the pace slows right down…as the former ECW Champion foregoes any kind of wrestling moves in favour of chokes and eye gouging. Bootscrapes and a running facewash a’la Samoa Joe comes next. He acts like he’s going to do it again but instead delivers a running punt straight to the throat which looked disgusting. Abdominal stretch next, with added thumb in the bum. Generico gets his own back by escaping and shoving the same thumb into Corino’s mouth. Steve blocks a half nelson suplex so Generico simply scoops him up for a Michinoku Driver instead. Yakuza Kick blocked and turned into a hammerlock flatliner for 2. Sliding Lariat gets 2 as well. He goes for a second only for Generico to COUNTER with the half nelson suplex. Yakuza Kick then a SECOND half nelson suplex all score but still Corino kicks out. He makes the mistake of trying to go to the top with Generico and is caught in a tree of woe. SOMERSAULT VAN TERMINATOR! It would be over but Kevin Steen arrives to pull the referee out of the ring. The ensuing confusion allows Steve to pin Generico using the ropes and score a tainted victory in 13:01

Rating – *** – There was an element of a somewhat ugly clash of styles here, but against all odds I thought they held things together surprisingly well. I loved Steve Corino’s SUPER old-school heat segment. It was so anti-Ring Of Honor in it’s militant simplicity. No flashy moves at all, just maximum damage inflicted with minimal effort. Of course the finish was shady, but as with Corino/Cabana from Epic Encounter 3, this match is a small part of a bigger picture. To that end, it furthered the ongoing feud well, and as a standalone match was better than Colt/Steve last week.

An angry Generico boots Corino in the face with another Yakuza Kick and Steen has to drag his friend to safety. He looks set to go on a rampage, finally ready to fight Steen after suffering another defeat. Cabana rushes to his friend’s side…and challenges Steen and Corino to a tag match at The Big Bang.

Tyler Black vs Austin Aries – Personal Challenge Gauntlet Match
I really don’t entirely know what’s going on with these Personal Challenge Gauntlets. I’m guessing ROH Newswire’s around the time would have explained things a little better. From what I can tell, all participants in The Big Bang’s main event will get the chance to work each other once. That means tonight we start with Black/Aries, and tomorrow we’ll start with Aries/Strong. The winner of that first match then advances to a second match against the other competitor. These Personal Challenge Gauntlets represent a genuine opportunity for both challengers to do some serious damage going into the the iPPV next weekend.

In a neat twist, referencing her last appearances in ROH when she was trying to ‘seduce’ him away from the clutches of the Age Of The Fall, Austin brings Tammy ‘Sunny’ Sytch with him to the ring. He blasts Black with a clothesline, but is quickly knocked out of the ring with a Pele Kick and lands dazed on the floor, directly in the path of a somersault plancha from the new champion. It’s all Tyler in the early going but he goes for the Springboard Lariat too early and gets shoved into the guardrails by Aries. Of course, whilst he’s prone against the barricade he’s in prime position for the Heat Seeking Missile…which A-Double duly delivers. He slows the pace down and singles out the arm for some abuse, which makes sense considering he was getting pasted when he tried to go move for move with the athletic champion. And it’s when he goes for something with a higher impact that he runs into trouble again – with Black hitting a superplex out of the corner and rolling it straight into an F-5. He tries a springboard reverse elbow, only for Tyler to counter with a back suplex. Showing his intelligence, he uses another shortcut by delivering a neckbreaker in the ropes to level the match up again. Buckle Bomb blocked…SUPERKICK ANYWAY! But without the big turnbuckle spot to set it up Tyler’s superkick is only good enough for a nearfall. Tammy Sytch gets onto the apron looking to flirt with Tyler, and distracts him for long enough to MISS the Phoenix Splash. Austin can’t hit the Brainbuster, so he shoves Tyler shoulder-first into the ringpost instead. Kick Of Death scores, but as he looks to convert the Brainbuster Tyler schoolboy pins him, and gets the win at 11:23

Rating – *** – This was understandably a step down from their recent ROH Title battles (or going further back, it was a step down from their two awesome matches in late 2008) but it still oozed quality as a competitive, toned down midcard encounter. I loved the story telling on display, with Tyler always getting the better of Aries when it came to hitting big, explosive, high impact moves – thus forcing the former Champion to slow things down, work a body part or straight-up cheat to gain a foothold. It was a simple story but it made for a decent little match, and does a great job in legitimising Tyler as the new champion.

An irate Austin Aries launches into an attack on Tyler’s arm, brutally kicking it into the ringpost and leaving him laying as Roderick Strong makes his way out…

Tyler Black vs Roderick Strong – Personal Challenge Gauntlet Match
Naturally Tyler is at a huge disadvantage having already fought once, and emerged from his clash with Austin Aries carrying a potentially serious injury. The issue between Black and Strong has been escalating for some time. Tyler controversially defeated Roddy in the 2009 Survival Of The Fittest finals after an exciting and evenly matched concluding portion to that bout. They shared several more hotly contested consequences in the following months – including a time limit draw, a big win for Strong at Eye Of The Storm 2, but an even bigger win for Tyler in a Pick 6 Match on HDNet. Having agreed to be Black’s judge at the 8th Anniversary Show in exchange for the first title shot, Roderick feels a huge sense of injustice that he has to share that first title shot with Austin, and is angry about being kicked in the face during that match too.

Strong beats Aries up to indicate that he doesn’t want Austin’s help, but then accepts it anyway by going right after Black’s arm with a version of Nigel McGuinness’ finisher – the London Dungeon. Black fights out and hits a running knee strike, but is so injured and worn down he can’t capitalise right away. Eventually he takes to the skies with the Springboard Lariat, then tries to injure Strong’s arm too. QUEBRADA PEROXISM gets 2. He wrenches the arm…so Strong wrenches his arm in response then nails the cradle backbreaker. APRON BACKBREAKER NEXT! Stronghold applied at 5 minutes but Black escapes by going to the same schoolboy he used to beat Austin Aries moments earlier. Gibson Driver COUNTERED TO AN INVERTED TOMBSTONE! That isn’t enough to beat Strong though, and soon Roddy is able to hit back with the DEATH BY RODERICK! GIBSON DRIVER – BLOCKED! BUCKLE BOMB! SUPERKICK…but Strong is in the ropes. As Black remonstrates with the official he turns his back on Roddy and is punished for that error with a SICK KICK! Third time of asking it’s the GIBSON DRIVER! Strong pins the World Champion at 07:53

Rating – *** – This was deliberately kept short, but served as the emotional climax to the storyline put into motion with the Aries/Black match. Having opened up the arm injury and seen Tyler suffer against Austin, here we saw his fighting spirit as he battled through the pain and came desperately close to beating both his Big Bang challengers in one evening. Ultimately he failed, and now Strong can claim a clean victory over the World Champion – traditionally something that moves one to the front of the queue for an ROH Title shot.

An angry Jerry Lynn tells Kenny King he’s bringing it ‘old school ECW style’ for their grudge match…which is up next

Kenny King vs Jerry Lynn – No DQ Match
By now we know what the issue is between these two men. Kenny King, along with Rhett Titus, took Lynn off the regular ROH roster with a vicious Spike Piledriver on HDNet last year – inflicting a serious and potentially career-ending spinal injury. Lynn was out for months, before returning to ROH at SoCal Showdown looking for revenge on King. There he picked up a win, and even managed to level Kenny with the Cradle Piledriver too…but that was in a violent post-match assault which saw officials decide to reverse the decision and award the match to King. This time there are no rules, and the other former ECW Champion on this show is looking to channel his extreme roots and get some revenge here in Phoenix.

Lynn brings chair to the ring, immediately making statement that he intends to get hardcore. He wedges the chair in the turnbuckles, as King fishes under the ring to retrieve a ladder. Unfortunately for him, he’s dealing with an ECW veteran and Jerry immediately pounces by dropkicking the ladder into King’s face. GUILLOTINE LEG DROP ON THE LADDER! Such a cool modification of that spot that Jerry does in every match. But he goes to the well once too often, looking for a springboard leg drop against the ladder as well…only for Kenny to move. VAN DAMINATOR attempted by King! Hell yes to RVD references. But he makes a rookie mistake by trying to win with a sunset flip, and is immediately punished with a chair shot to his exposed head. That other chair is still set up in the turnbuckles and King regains his bearings after sending Lynn face-first into it – busting him open. The respite allows Kenny to position a table in the adjacent corner. KING SPIDERMAN BACK FLIPS OFF THE LADDER…then gets BULLDOGGED onto it by Lynn as he admires his own athleticism. Jerry tries a tornado DDT..only for King to hit the RVD NOTHERN LIGHTS COUNTER INTO THE LADDER! Then it’s all damage to the neck as he traps Lynn’s head in the rungs before jamming the ladder against the ringpost. King wants another table, and cleverly waffles Lynn in the neck with a steel chair to keep him down before setting it up. Both men are weary now, and seem somewhat sluggish as they battle on the ropes. Jerry grabs the initiative with a frankensteiner then a TKO. He positions an open chair mid-ring, but it’s King that uses it with a DDT. SHOTGUN KNEES THROUGH A TABLE! There’s still that one open table, and when Lynn slides under it, Kenny is so athletic that he is able to LEAP OVER IT to deliver a clothesline in the corner. Lynn rides that to hit a SUNSET BOMB INTO THE TABLE…WHICH DOESN’T BREAK! King’s back bent horrifically there, and if that wasn’t enough, Jerry drags him up for the CRADLE PILEDRIVER THROUGH A TABLE! Finally Jerry has his revenge, and he picks up the 3-count at 12:58

Rating – **** – Almost unnecessarily violent, and much like Steen/Omega my rating is generous, but it was a real hidden gem. Kenny King, in possibly the biggest singles match of his ROH career thus far, REALLY stepped his game up here. Sure there were a few sloppy moments, but his performance was surprisingly mature and confident. Jerry is a total pro and has worked these matches before, but it was refreshing to see King going hold for hold with him. The way he started lifting RVD moves to hang with Jerry Lynn in an ECW-esque environment was an outstanding touch of psychology that I totally wasn’t expecting. My biggest gripe comes with the decision to put Jerry over here. I know he’s the babyface and the traditional route is for the babyface to get his big victorious moment of vengeance. But to my mind he got his revenge in January at SoCal Showdown when he got to piledrive King on a chair. At this point everyone knew Jerry was on his way out of ROH. Why not give King, whom Ring Of Honor clearly see as a potential star in the near future, the rub on his way out? He has Steve Corino tomorrow night – you could easily have Jerry win that one instead to get a big victory on his way out of ROH. It’s not like Corino needs wins to get heat…

In a pre-taped promo ahead of the main event, the Briscoes (sporting new ROH Tag Title belts) say they’re going to treat the Wolves like they do their pitbulls back on the farm in Delaware.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs American Wolves – ROH Tag Title Match
It’s almost an obligatory wrestling custom that a dethroned champion is eligible for a prompt rematch should they choose to pursue one. Tonight the American Wolves take up that rematch clause, looking to regain the ROH Tag Championship they lost to the Briscoes at Final Battle 2009. The heat between these two teams goes right back to 2008 when Davey and Eddie chose to establish themselves as a tag team force by attacking Mark Briscoe and causing him to miss the first six months of 2009 with a severe knee injury. To date the champions seem to have the beating of the Wolves – having beaten them by disqualification at Final Countdown Tour Chicago before taking the belts in December.

Richards and Mark work the opening minutes and are completely evenly matched. The first major offensive blow comes from Jay as he drops Edwards with a big hurricanrana. He follows up with a sliding boot to the side of the face as the referee struggles to hold Richards back. Edwards gets another tag to Richards moments later after blasting Mark with a fierce headbutt. Davey clatters Mark to the floor with a Handspring Enzi, but when he looks to follow with that crazy tope con hilo Jay dives in to save his brother with a spinebuster. Jay succumbs to a numbers advantage though, getting distracted by Edwards and allowing Davey to drop him with a dragon screw in the ropes. The momentum shifts quickly with the challengers now in control and vigorously working Jay’s knee. Even on one leg Jay fights both Wolves off and gets a tag to Mark, who blocks a double Alarm Clock and converts to a fisherman buster on Richards for 2. To the floor where Mark misses a pescado and is shoved into the guardrails by Edwards. On the other side of the ring Richards grabs Jay…SUPERKICK GERMAN COMBO INTO THE CROWD! But as Richards and Edwards admire their handiwork Mark flies off the top rope into a plancha which wipes out both of them. Jerk Alarm Clock puts the younger Briscoe down and leaves the American Wolves on top once again. Jay is still out of it in the crowd which means Mark is in real trouble trying to fight both his opponents at the same time. Richards locks in the Tequila Sunrise as Jay finally manages to drag his body back over the railings. Davey converts to the Texas Cloverleaf with such ferocity that it takes Jay several attempts to kick his brother free.

Jay takes it to both opponents – flatlining Davey’s head into Eddie’s crotch in a particularly memorable spot. Richards blocks the Jay Driller but gets dropped on his NECK with a DVD seconds later. Tag to Edwards to gets a 2 from a Doi 555/knee smash combo. Flying Codebreaker scores but still isn’t enough to secure a second American Wolf title reign. Mark drops Eddie with the Iconoclasm, then sees his Cut-Throat Driver attempt blocked. Richards pummels him in the corner and delivers a huge superplex…but Crazy Mark no sells it! ALARM CLOCK NO SOLD! URINAGE SUPLEX NO SOLD! URINAGE AGAIN! Richards looks beaten but Edwards dives in to break the pin at 2. HEAD DROP GERMAN ON EDDIE! He no sells that…MAFIA KICK DUEL with Jay! All four men are down in a heap with the crowd eating it up. Jay and Davey are the first men to their feet, coming up swinging with another exchange of stiff shots. Drunken Stupor-Kick gets 2! Eddie is back…double Alarm Clock into the SUPERKICK GERMAN for 2! Achilles Lock blocked, then Richards saves Edwards as Briscoe looks for a Jay Driller. Mark looks to help is brother…TOPE CON DAVEY WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF NAILED! He wipes out Mark and several fans in one swift swoop there! TOP ROPE SUPER RANA from Edwards to Jay, and incredibly Richards is back to hit a NECK DROP POWERBOMB/LUNGBLOWER! ACHILLES LOCK ON JAY…he makes the ropes. The Wolves think about the Doomsday Ace Crusher but it’s blocked. JAY DRILLER ON EDWARDS! HE KICKS OUT! DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Briscoes retain at 26:57

Rating – **** – Great match and a fitting main event to close the show. It started slowly but built to become a real barn-burner by the end – and was comfortably the best Briscoes/Wolves match thus far. What’s crazy is the Briscoes have been the backbone of ROH’s tag division for so long that, as good as this match was it probably barely makes their ‘Top 20’ best ROH tags…if that. They get plenty of plaudits for their work, but it really is time to put these guys alongside the likes of Ki, Joe, Punk, Danielson, Homicide and Nigel as ROH legends. Throw a better or more interesting opening 10 minutes on this and we’d be talking an easy MOTYC.

Tape Rating – **** – I already figured I was going to get heat for over-rating Steen/Omega and Lynn/King, so I decided I’d go ahead and give a generous rating to the show as a whole. Is it an all time classic, ‘must own’ ROH show…probably not. In ROH’s very illustrious history at WrestleMania weekend, this was probably one of their weakest efforts, and comfortably one of the least important in that nothing of major storyline significance actually went down here. However, I find it impossible to deny that this is a damn good show. Even taking into account I was generous in giving 4* ratings to two matches that possibly didn’t deserve it, and even if long-term viewers won’t find it enormously significant, top to bottom this is such a fun night of wrestling. Outside of a poor, but sub-5 minute Necro/Bison brawl, everything is of a very decent standard. The terrific main event will rightly get the plaudits, but there is so much good stuff in this midcard – which isn’t something I’ve always been able to say about ROH under the Adam Pearce stewardship. If you’re expecting another Supercard Of Honor, Better Than Our Best, all time great ROH show you’ll be disappointed. If you have slightly more grounded, reasonable expectations…you’ll really dig this.

Top 3 Matches
3) Kevin Steen vs Kenny Omega (****)
2) Jerry Lynn vs Kenny King (****)
1) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs American Wolves (****)

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