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ROH Rise & Prove 2/17/2012

ROH 298 – Rise & Prove – 17th February 2012

I’d like to know why ROH decided to book a live event when they clearly weren’t able to, or weren’t willing to sign up the majority of their talent and get them over to the show this weekend. There’s no Mike Bennett, Tommaso Ciampa, ANX, WGTT, TJ Perkins, Young Bucks, El Generico, Kevin Steen, Caprice Coleman, Cedric Alexander or Jimmy Jacobs (there are probably more missing too), so the roster is looking particularly threadbare. ROH’s solution was to sign up a load of enhancement talents (mostly Cornette’s boys from OVW) pair them off and throw them in a tag tournament – where the only prize is a Proving Ground Match. Oh, and bringing back BJ Whitmer for the first time since Hangman 3 ditched him back during Gabe’s failed Faction Warfare angle. Doesn’t sound promising does it? That’s not to say the card isn’t a total bust as the Briscoes defend the Tag Titles against Team Ambition in the main event, whilst the Eddie Edwards vs Roderick Strong No Holds Barred Match originally scheduled for Homecoming 2012 is now tonight too. We’re debuting in Cincinnati, OH (in a great, intimate little venue) with Kevin Kelly who is going solo tonight…

Veda Scott talks with Adam Cole about how he’s been preparing to face Michael Elgin tonight…

SIDENOTE – No Bobby Cruise tonight, no colour commentator, half the roster missing and ROH doesn’t even seem to have cared enough to bring their own ring ropes either. The ring is surrounded by the bright yellow OVW ones. Did ROH management care even a little bit about this show?

Michael Elgin vs Adam Cole
At Homecoming 2012 Cole was putting in the performance of his life in a No Holds Barred Match with Roderick Strong – until Unbreakable interfered to assist his House Of Truth team mate. Now Adam wants revenge on the 2011 Survival Of The Fittest winner.

Elgin ominously flattens Cole with a shoulder tackle, looking completely uninterested in anything Adam has to offer. That is until Cole gets some extra momentum with a flying headscissors, then takes to the air to land a tope suicida as Unbreakable looks to flee. Truth Martini distracts him though, enabling Elgin to suplex him violently into the turnbuckles for 2. He presses home his advantage, clamping on a surfboard and really making Cole work for his escape…then drilling him into the mat again with a powerslam once he gets it. Clothesline don’t work for Adam…so he hits a SLINGSHOT APRON DDT INSTEAD! He follows with the flying crossbody which gets 2, but he’s just not doing enough damage to keep Elgin down. Superkick…NO SOLD! SPINNING BACK FIST! NO SOLD! LARIAT BY ELGIN! Both men are rattled after that ferocious exchange. They struggle to the top rope with Cole coming out on top to hit the sunset bomb for another nearfall. Elgin responds with the Buckle Bomb…into the Spiral Bomb. He wins at 08:03

Rating – *** – Solid little opening match, not that you’d expect anything less from two of the best workers on the roster at this moment in time. Elgin was the right winner since he needs to look strong for his eventual title shot, but Cole has been absolutely BURIED since that fantastic performance at Homecoming 2012. Since then he’s lost twice, and been unceremoniously ditched as Kyle O’Reilly’s partner and hasn’t said a word about it. Although given how scattered, uninspired and lazy ROH’s booking is starting to become under Sinclair that shouldn’t be surprising.

Chris Silvio and Sean Casey bicker about who is going to win the match for their team tonight. Rudy Switchblade and Shiloh Jonze (their opponents) seem like they’re on the same page…

Sean Casey/Chris Silvio vs Shiloh Jonze/Rudy Switchblade – Rise & Prove Tournament Semi-Final
I think all four of these are OVW guys. Casey, Jonze and Silvio have all worked as enhancement talents in ROH before…although my memory isn’t great so I’m not sure if Rudy is new or not. Either way, this is a chance for these four to step up from enhancement talent to earn a spot on the main roster. Silvio has a decent character, whilst Jonze is probably my favourite worker of the four.

ROH care so little about this show they can’t even be bothered to put up the right pre-match graphic. Jonze and Silvio start which suits me just fine, even if it’s a battle of two guys with totally repulsive ring gear. They trade basic hiptosses and armdrags and wind up in a stalemate with neither able to gain an advantage. Casey, who looks identical to Mickey Rourke’s character in The Wrestler tags, and the quality of wrestling takes a noticeable nosedive with he and Switchblade involved. Double dropkick from Shiloh and Rudy floors Silvio…and they punish him by hanging him in the ropes and putting his face in Casey’s crotch. CRAZY SUICIDE DIVE BY JONZE! He got wild hangtime on a dive to the floor which took out both opponents there. Again Silvio and Casey utilise some teamwork to take the initiative and isolate Shiloh from his partner. Tornado snapmare driver from Casey gets 2. Jonze makes the hot tag to Switchblade, who shows surprising agility to deliver a rebound double crossbody on both opponents. Frog Splash on Silvio…for the win. Switchblade and Jonze advance at 07:49

Rating – ** – Nothing wrong with this necessarily, it was just pretty dull and forgettable. The right team won, if only because Shiloh Jonze produced a decent performance. I really want to like Silvio as I love his gimmick and hair, but everything he does is so boring, generic and completely OVW. Why ROH are so closely associated with a promotion that churns out so few really top quality workers is totally beyond me.

Veda Scott interviews Alabama Attitude and TMDK before the second Rise & Prove match…

Shane Haste/Mikey Nicholls vs Alabama Attitude – Rise & Prove Tournament Semi-Final
I think Alabama Attitude (Corey Hollis and Mike Posey) may have had a couple of appearances in ROH before, but it’s our first look at Haste and Nicholls (or TMDK – which I believe stands for Team MurderDeathKill which is an awesome team name if true). They are from Australia so are certainly something a little difference from the usual parade of new enhancement talent we see coming in.

The lazy production team again put up the wrong graphic, which is spoiling the result of this match and already letting us know that TMDK advance. The Australians don’t endear themselves to the Cincinnati crowd as they cut a promo trashing the place. Posey blasts Haste with a sliding enzi kick to get an early nearfall, and Attitude start using flurries of double team moves to keep working their opponent over. Mikey tags in and slowly turns things round by cutting Posey off from his corner. This lasts for several minutes with Haste and Nicholls not even offering Posey even a glimpse of a tag. Finally Mike drops Haste with a swinging neckbreaker and dives into the hot tag to Hollis. Despite a serious size disadvantage, Corey tears through Shane Haste…until the big Australian does his best to kill him with a clubbing lariat. He recovers to dive into a spinning enzi on Nicholls, before Posey returns to the action with a slingshot leg drop for 2. Swinging headscissors from Hollis to Haste on the floor…then a SHIRANUI LUNGBLOWER ON NICHOLLS! Haste returns and THROWS Corey at the ensuing pinfall to save the match. RUNNING POWERSLAM INTO A POETRY IN MOTION STYLE CANNONBALL SENTON BY TMDK! AIR RAID CRASH/DDT COMBO! The Australians get the victory and advance to the finals at 10:43

Rating – *** – It started a little formulaic but developed into a fun little match and a seriously impressive debut for TMDK. They have that ‘x-factor’ about them which makes them comfortably the most promising act in the tournament…which is a shame since they aren’t likely to be around long term if they’re based in Australia? Credit to Hollis too, as he looks like a solid little wrestler showing a lot of promise. If he keeps working the southern promotions I’m sure Cornette will look after him and bring him back soon enough…

Veda wants to know what Eddie Edwards strategy is going into his No Holds Barred Match with Roderick Strong this evening. He says he has someone watching his back to protect him from sneak attacks from the likes of Michael Elgin and Truth Martini.

Roderick Strong vs Eddie Edwards – No Holds Barred Match
These two have a long history, going all the way back to Death Before Dishonor in 2008 when Eddie scored his highest profile win in his ROH career at that point – when he defeated Roddy during his early days with Sweet’n’Sour Inc. Eddie was the one who shocked the world by ending Strong’s World Title reign at Manhattan Mayhem 4, and seemingly had Roderick’s number throughout 2011 as he beat him in a subsequent World Title rematch at Supercard Of Honor 6, then won the epic 2/3 falls Ringmaster’s Challenge MOTYC at Death Before Dishonor 9 and later the record breaking 8-Man Tag at Southern Defiance. They were scheduled to settle their feud in the big return to Philadelphia at Homecoming 2012 but an injury to Eddie put pay to that. Adam Cole wound up taking Edwards’ place that evening and delivered a courageous performance…but tonight Roderick faces the real thing in the rescheduled decisive bout between these two rivals.

Jim Cornette comes out and orders Todd Sinclair to handcuff Martini to the ringpost to prevent him interfering. That works in Eddie’s favour, but the distraction it causes allows Strong to attack him as the match starts. It’s not long before the two men are chopping lumps out of each other, all around ringside! Strong takes the initiative with a back suplex on the apron for 2, but is surprised when Eddie responds by raking his eyes and chopping him back into the corner. Sick of the chops, Roddy starts assaulting the right arm which negates the big chops and inflicts damage on the surgically repaired elbow. He gets too carried away with that though, and is punished when Die Hard gives him a body slam on the metal entrance ramp. That hurt him, but he manages to slide a table into Eddie’s ribs, then holds him open for the handcuffed Truth Martini to take a few cheap shots. Gutbuster over the guardrail follows next. Eddie hits back with a moonsault off the apron but at this stage that’s a move which injures himself as much as his adversary. The crowd are right behind Edwards as he looks for the Die Hard into an open chair…but it’s countered into an atomic drop on the chair instead. DEATH BY RODERICK COUNTERED WITH A RANA! Strong knees him in the face! Death By Roderick scores at the second attempt and gets 2. DEATH BY OPEN STEEL CHAIR GETS 2 AS WELL! Strong has Eddie on the ropes, only to waste time going around the ring hanging steel chairs in all four corners. Of course, Edwards has enough time to recover and comes back by flinging his opponent into one of the chairs then hitting a tree of woe dropkick. TREE OF WOE CHAIR DROPKICK FROM THE FLOOR! The two men jostle for position on the top…APRON DOUBLE STOMP FROM EDDIE MISSES! Roderick slams him down back-first on the apron again for 2. He is pissed now, looking to throw Eddie through a table with a Gibson Driver from the apron. Todd Sinclair is KO’d in the crossfire…EDDIE HITS A TOP ROPE DOUBLE STOMP THROUGH A TABLE ON THE FLOOR! He can’t win though as Sinclair is still unconscious…and in comes Michael Elgin. Adam Cole quickly follows to make the save, but in the melee Martini has stolen the handcuff key from the floored ref. Edwards superkicks him out of the ring…then Strong NAILS him with the Book Of Truth. It took all three members of the House Of Truth, but Strong finally beats Eddie at 17:31

Rating – **** – It was never meant to be an epic like their Death Before Dishonor 9 bout, but this was another terrific instalment in one of ROH’s top rivalries of recent years. Even working a slightly handcuffed ‘grudge’ match style with Sinclair’s new rules, these two put on a hell of a physical encounter. The overbooking at the end was annoying, but you can see the necessity of it as it keeps Eddie strong in defeat and also promotes his relationship with Adam Cole ahead of the 10th Anniversary Show. For a house show undercard match this was really first class…

Samson Walker (who has wrestled previously as Sampson – and impressed me) tells Veda that he’s going to prove how tough he is by beating Mike Mondo tonight.

In their locker room Truth Martini hypes Michael Elgin…but Roddy declines the same treatment and simply tells Davey Richards that he’s coming for the World Championship.

Mike Mondo vs Samson Walker
I seem to remember it was at Battle In The Carolinas that Walker (competing as Sampson) last appeared and impressed me with his work as a big brawler. He’s been rewarded with another shot here.

Mondo tries to shove and slap the big man, and is sent spinning through the air with a monstrous shoulder block. Despite being called ‘No Fear’, he quickly goes into full retreat mode, hiding on the outside until he is presented with an opportunity to hang Samson in the ropes. Even then, it only briefly halts Walker’s momentum as he charges at Mondo again to nail a violent clothesline which sends him flying off the apron. Mike resorts to hiding behind the referee then launching into a violent attack after blindsiding Samson. He gets 2 with a lousy missile dropkick across the back, then starts choking him with his wrist tape. Next he uses the sports entertainment chinlock of doom…and starts selling and pulling facials like a cartoon character during the ensuing Walker comeback sequence. Mondo eventually wins by rolling Samson up with his feet on the ropes at 07:23. Todd Sinclair was watching from the back though, and advises the in-ring referee to restart the match. He does so, and Walker picks up the popular victory at 07:34 with a spinebuster.

Rating – DUD – I hate Mike Mondo. I absolutely hate him being in ROH. Since when has ROH been about jacked up, ex-WWE guys in their 30’s wrestling a bullsh*t, irritating sports entertainment style that Ring Of Honor was founded to get away from? Sorry, ROH already has a guy to do that gimmick – and for all his critics, at least Mike Bennett is a f*cking ROH guy. Mondo is a WWE never was, and is simply not good enough for the amount of exposure he gets in this promotion. Sure he’s a solid hand in the ring, but in my eyes Ring Of Honor was founded as an antithesis to workers like him and seeing Sinclair and Cornette giving him such exposure makes me so sad. The match sucked by the way. Walker has some potential, but Mondo working Bennett’s style without half as much charisma and ability is of no interest to me. At least Samson went over, albeit in a match designed entirely to showcase his opponent

Shane Haste/Mikey Nicholls vs Shiloh Jonze/Rudy Switchblade – Rise & Prove Tournament Final
To be fair to the booking team, TMDK and Shiloh were the standout performers of the two semi-finals, and they are all here in the conclusion of the tournament so they’ve got it right thus far. The Australian debutants made quite an impression in an entertaining victory over Alabama Attitude, but their match went the best part of 3 minutes longer than Shiloh and Rudy’s win over Chris Silvio and Sean Casey. Will fatigue play a factor and cause them issues as they look to win the Rise & Prove Tournament and earn a Proving Ground Match?

TMDK jump Jonze and Switchblade to get the match started, quickly isolating Rudy and aggressively working him over. After a couple of minutes of that abuse he tumbles into the hot tag to Shiloh…but the Australians sensibly shut his momentum down with double teams and cheating. The Cincinnati crowd (who have been decent all night) get really into body slams, so in classic heel fashion Nicholls teases a big slam only to abort it at the last and go for a cheap pin instead. Haste obliges them, but only by hauling Jonze out of the ring and slamming him onto the unprotected carpet floor. Tag to Rudy, who’s babyface comeback spots are really awful. In return Haste gets real hangtime on a flying knee strike and makes him look even worse. Even though they’ve been working as heels all match, TMDK are so much better than the OVW enhancement talent that the crowd are booing Jonze and Switchblade now. RUNNING POWERSLAM INTO A POETRY IN MOTION CANNONBALL…MISSES! Jonze capitalises to floor Mikey with a spinning enzi, and the crowd are furious when Rudy nearly wins it with a frog splash. Pescado missed by Shiloh, and TMDK pounce to floor Switchblade with the Air Raid Crash/DDT combo. They win the tournament at 08:51

Rating – ** – Maybe this is the night when Cornette and SBG realise that all this OVW talent coming into ROH is total bullsh*t. Lets be honest, TMDK were the only team who looked remotely capable of competing at a Ring Of Honor level, and they were cheered out of the building by the crowd even though they were working as heels. ROH fans aren’t idiots, and they won’t cheer mediocre hacks like Rudy Switchblade no matter how you book a match. Haste and Nicholls are clearly talented and I look forward to seeing TMDK/Briscoes in the Proving Ground. But unless they are based in the US, we’re much more likely to see more of OVW wasters like Rudy Switchblade and Chris Silvio before we see them on a long term basis.

The returning BJ Whitmer talks to Veda about his Proving Ground Match against Jay Lethal up next. He’s back in ROH for the first time in four years, and is looking to make it permanent and take home the winners paycheck tonight.

Jay Lethal vs BJ Whitmer
It’s the first time that BJ has been booked by ROH since his time in Hangman 3 during Faction Warfare. He was kicked out of Ring Of Honor by the late Larry Sweeney when Adam Pearce sold the Hangmen to Sweet’n’Sour Inc. and hasn’t been in the company since. He went away and rehabbed a catalogue of injuries sustained during his brutal five year stint in ROH, made a few appearances for Gabe’s DGUSA franchise and now looks to return home to Ring Of Honor in impressive fashion as he faces the TV Champion in a Proving Ground Match. Lethal’s record in the Proving Ground is decent, although he does have defences against Roderick Strong and Tommaso Ciampa lined up after they earned themselves title opportunities under these stipulations.

Whitmer starts slowly, clearly looking to avoid mistakes and feel his way into his first ROH match in years. Kevin Kelly acknowledges that BJ’s return is probably only a one-night nostalgic thing since we’re in his hometown – unless he can produce something special this evening. Lethal actually struggles to get away from him as Whitmer uses his power advantage to control the initial mat wrestling exchanges. And the champion is clearly rattled as he foolishly tries to exchange chops with the experienced former NOAH competitor. BJ emphatically gets the best of that exchange and at 5 minutes Lethal is struggling. He needs to quicken the pace, and does so by delivering the hiptoss dropkick. He takes to the air next and for the first time Whitmer is in trouble. BJ absorbs a springboard dropkick from Lethal…only to respond with a RUNNING SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! Whitmer is no stranger to taking some risks and hurting himself in pursuit of victory, and so it proved there – now allowing him to start using his power again and riding Lethal with a grounded chinlock. Jay escapes and nails him with a second rope heel kick but the champion is so beaten up he can’t even stand to take advantage. Eventually he follows it with a handspring elbow for 2 , with the clock now working against him as he has less than four minutes to beat BJ. Lethal Combination nailed but still Whitmer kicks out. Wrist Clutch Exploder countered with a superkick by Lethal…but BJ no sells! Superkick again…MACHO ELBOW NAILED! FOR 2! BJ grabs a leg to block the Lethal Injection, and hits a swinging fisherman buster. Wrist Clutch countered again…LETHAL INJECTION SCORES! Lethal wins at 14:32, leaving Whitmer an agonising 28 seconds away from a title shot.

Rating – *** – Seeing this makes you realised just how spoilt ROH fans were back in the ‘golden age’ from 2004-2008. Back then Whitmer was an average midcard talent, and nobody was too upset when he disappeared from Ring Of Honor. But on a show awash with painfully average OVW talent, Whitmer’s performance here makes you realise just how good he is. Strong match, with a consistent story which played to the strengths of both workers and made them both look good in the process. I’d much rather have BJ Whitmer back on a semi-regular basis than have to see the likes of Mondo and the rest of the OVW gang ever again…

After the match Lethal admits he wasn’t fully focused on that match, as he’s getting ready for Tommaso Ciampa at the 10th Anniversary Show. He vows to end Tommaso’s streak in New York.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Davey Richards/Kyle O’Reilly – ROH Tag Title Match
Team Ambition won the right to challenge the Briscoes for the belts after beating the House Of Truth in a gruelling encounter at Underground last month. It’s a huge opportunity for a team who don’t have a lot of experience working together in ROH. Richards is looking to win the Tag Titles with a third different partner (having previously held them with Rocky Romero and Eddie Edwards), and for Kyle it would solidify his claims that his pairing with Davey is the ‘new American Wolves’, as well as justifying his decision to put Future Shock on the back burner. The Briscoes have a rough few months ahead with this match to negotiate then the Young Bucks and WGTT on the horizon too.

Kelly calls Richards the ‘captain’ of Team Ambition, so it’s no surprise that he starts in the ring. He and Jay run through a captivating exchange of holds on the canvas which the live crowd really enjoys. Mark and O’Reilly actually go better in an exchange which prompts the Briscoes to abandon the mat work and start trading strikes instead. Richards is happy with that until Jay holds him exposed for a dropkick THROUGH the ropes and straight up the aisle. Going to the outside is playing right into the champions hands and the Briscoes soon have Davey and Kyle flying around crashing into guardrails, chairs, tables and any other obstacle in front of them. Having taken the advantage on the floor, Jay and Mark return to the ring and start using some signature double teams to isolate the World Champion. O’Reilly helps out by hitting Mark with the Rolling Butterflies…but Mark responds with ROLLING NORTHERN LIGHTS! ROLLING SUPLEX DUEL! Kyle wins that by applying a cross armbreaker but the youngster is soon on the back foot as the Briscoes break out some more tandem offence.
O’Reilly does his best to fight them off, dropping both of them with the double dragon screw.

TOPE SUICIDA BY DAVEY! He hit that with crazy velocity as, in the ring, Kyle gets 2 on Jay after a swinging DDT. Alarm Clock by Davey, then a Regalplex from O’Reilly for 2 on Mark. The toothless Briscoe retaliates with the Iconoclasm on Kyle at 15 minutes, setting him for the Splash Mountain Neckbreaker. Richards saves his partner from the Doomsday Device…ANKLELOCK ON JAY! FUJIWARA ARMBAR ON MARK! No submission there – and the effort is starting to exhaust both teams. STEREO BIG BOOT WAR! SUPERKICKS ALL ROUND! Richards goes back to the Anklelock on Jay before releasing it to deliver successive running punts to both Briscoes then a flying double stomp which gets 2. APRON DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR BY KYLE! He climbs to the top rope to deliver a BACK SUPERPLEX on Jay. Team Ambition are on fire now, and nearly win the match with a sick roundhouse kick/brainbuster combo. Guillotine Choke applied only for Jay to COUNTER with the falcon arrow. Froggy Bow nailed for 2. DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON O’REILLY! The Briscoes retain their belts at 21:31

Rating – **** – Stellar main event, and a second consecutive non-televised great performance by Team Ambition. Underground and Rise & Prove have to be two of the least seen ROH shows ever, which is a shame in some ways as the Richards/O’Reilly combo have produced two very different but hugely watchable outings. The House Of Truth match was more of a gruelling, physical epic, whilst this one was energetic, explosive, fiery and moved at an unrelenting pace. There’s not as much reason to watch ROH these days, but whilst they still have talents like these four guys it’s still worth following…

Tape Rating – *** – Consider this an extremely generous 3* rating. I had to think long and hard about that one, as there was a LOT I did not like about this show. I’m a completist, and I don’t expect every show to be blowaway ippv quality stuff. But the staggering disinterest ROH showed towards this live event is unbelievable. What is the point in booking a show when more than half of your regular roster isn’t there? When Ring Of Honor run a show where they can’t be bothered to bring most of their wrestlers, can’t be bothered to supply their own ring ropes, ring announcer and can’t even be assed to pay more than a single commentator what reason are they giving the fans to care about this event? If ROH don’t care about their stuff, why should we? I’ve been very outspoken in my criticism of the amount of OVW guys getting undeserved opportunities in this company thanks to their links with Cornette, so they amount of Ohio Valley guys on this show also pissed me off.

So when I’ve got that much to moan about, it’s actually to ROH’s credit that they pulled off a decent show. TMDK were head and shoulders above anyone else in the Rise & Prove Tournament, and they were deservedly booked to win. They could be a strong addition to the roster if we can work out their travel. Eddie/Roddy and Briscoes/Ambition were both great matches, whilst BJ Whitmer’s return raised a few eyebrows, such was the quality and professionalism of his performance. And ultimately, even if the standard of competitor and the quantity of OVW guys annoyed me, I salute ROH for booking this tournament and using the enhancement talent in a more productive way than booking a succession of squash matches. The tipping point for this getting 3* was that, whilst this show was decent, the DVD packaging also includes the Underground event. Ambition/HOT, Ambition/Briscoes, Eddie/Roddy, Lethal/Ciampa, Lethal/BJ, Elgin/Cole, Briscoes/C&C and TMDK/Alabama Attitude were all decent and left me feeling like I got decent value for money. Thankfully we have three ippvs coming up next so the show quality should improve drastically.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs BJ Whitmer (***)
2) Roderick Strong vs Eddie Edwards (****)
1) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Davey Richards/Kyle O’Reilly (****)

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