ROH Live Strong 6/30/2012

ROH 308 – Live Strong – 30th June 2012

So Best In The World 2012 goes down in the history books as a successful night for ROH. Inside the ring we saw some spectacular matches, whilst the ppv feed was reportedly decent as well meaning less complaints on that side of things too. But as ever in pro-wrestling, there is no time to stop and celebrate, as we’re less than a week removed from that night in New York and ROH have another live event to look forward to. The headline match tonight sees Kevin Steen defending against Roderick Strong. There are some decent bouts on the undercard too – I have high hopes for Edwards/Ciampa in particular, but there’s also O’Reilly/Lethal, Whitmer/Jacobs and a Briscoes/HOT tag on the menu. I think Bruno Sammartino is scheduled to appear as well. We’re in Belle Vernon, PA (near Pittsburgh). Commentary is from Bill Burger and Steve Corino – making a rare appearance on one of these DVD shows for which he is supposedly paid. Kevin Kelly is on the DVD – but doing the ring announcing. Jesus I wish ROH would nail down an announce team and stick to it. I miss Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard!!

Kyle O’Reilly vs Jay Lethal
Such was the chaos of the Steen/Richards main event last weekend, it sort of slipped under the radar that Kyle O’Reilly spectacularly quit Team Ambition and is now flying solo in ROH. It’s a big move for him to step out from under the protective umbrella that Team Richards has offered him since he arrived in the company, and he’ll be looking for some impressive and high profile early wins to back up his decision. A win over Lethal (who is having a great year performance-wise, despite failing to recapture the TV Title last week) would be a big deal to his fledgling solo career.

It’s a very even start, both when it comes to mat wrestling and then strike exchanges. Lethal takes the advantage by back flipping off the ropes into the hiptoss dropkick – which is a nice way to mix up the spot he does in basically every match. He starts working on O’Reilly’s back as Corino reveals on commentary that Lethal is related to Viscera. Kyle responds by rolling him into a cross armbreaker attempt. He starts picking apart Lethal’s arm which obviously negates his ability to hit the Lethal Injection. LETHAL INJECTION COUNTERED TO A CROSS ARMBREAKER! Jay barely makes the ropes and is now carrying a severe injury as we pass the five minute mark. It also means that Jay can’t get his arms up to protect himself as O’Reilly peppers him with kicks. Lethal manages to hit a handspring elbow, but crumples in pain after executing the move. Enziguri kick knocks Kyle to the floor for a TOPE SUICIDA! Macho Elbow nailed for 2. Kyle goes on the defence and kicks at the bad arm again…only for Lethal to return fire with vicious chops. BACK DROP DRIVER ON LETHAL! He barely kicks out! Impact Explosion Dropkick from Lethal…then a superkick which knocks Kyle’s mouth guard skywards! BACKFLIP LETHAL INJECTION! Jay wins at 10:25

Rating – *** – Lots of fun, therefore a good way to get the ball rolling with this DVD. I certainly found it more exciting than their Showdown In The Sun encounter. However, Lethal’s total no sell on the arm after they built O’Reilly’s entire heat segment around it really hurt the match for me. It either makes the match pointless or makes Kyle look weak – you pick.

ROH COO Joe Koff steps into the ring next – seemingly to shill the ROH TV show, the Sinclair networks that carry it and to thank a whole host of sponsors. He’s actually here to conduct a brief ceremony to honour Bruno Sammartino. He looks basically as healthy and strong as he did last time we saw him in ROH, except with the addition of a slightly unnerving moustache. Bruno oozes sincerity and humility as he puts over ROH and its wrestlers.

Veda Scott talks to Pepper Parks ahead of his debut against Adam Cole. He knows it’s a huge opportunity and doesn’t plan to let anybody down

Pepper Parks vs Adam Cole
Cole won the TV Title at the television tapings the previous evening. Annoyingly ROH let him come out with the belt. Why not just leave it in the back, and not have Roddy come out with it either? I complained about this during the HDNet era as well. I’m not saying you have to insult the fans’ intelligence by pretending Strong is still champion. Just don’t have anyone come out with the belt until the show with the title change is broadcast? Anyway, Parks will want to make an impressive debut showing, whilst Cole will want a comprehensive win to cement his status as a new champion.

As with Lethal/O’Reilly, it’s an evenly matched start as Parks works hard and hangs with Cole every step of the way. He seems to have a lot of Adam’s big spots scouted, continually countering him into roll-ups looking to score a quick victory. Cole is knocked off the apron with a dropkick but reacts quickly on the floor to block a tope attempt with a jumping enzi. He stalks Pepper on the apron only to walk into a knee to the face. Given that his face is still stitched up and surgically repaired after the Hybrid Rules Match at Best In The World he can’t be taking too many shots like that. Parks continues to drill him with kicks and chops until they collide mid-ring going for crossbody blocks. The TV Champ strikes first after that with a Shining Wizard for 2. Pepper retorts with a Golden Gate Swing and gets his own nearfall though. Cole to the top but MISSES the diving crossbody! Parks heads upstairs and tries the same thing…then when Adam tries to duck it Pepper grabs his head for a FLYING NECKBREAKER! Florida Key countered…so Cole superkicks Pepper in the face. Florida Key scores second time of asking, and it gives Adam the win at 09:35

Rating – ** – Very competent debut for Pepper, although he looked like yet another guy with a decent look but a slightly bland wrestling style…and no discernible personality to bring anything new to the ROH table. This started ok, got pretty dull in the middle but came back for an explosive little finish. At the midway point the crowd were starting to turn on Parks but were chanting his name by the end proving he did an ok job. This was nothing more than a filler match for Adam so it’s to his credit that he threw himself round and worked hard to make Pepper look good.

Poor Veda tries to interview Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis (who looks stunning)…only for Maria to bully her off screen and interview The Prodigy for herself. Bennett complains about not being picked by Cornette as a guy to take the World Title from Kevin Steen, and calls everyone in the four way match he has tonight roadblocks.

Adam Cole has nothing of real note to say, but vows to make the fans proud of his TV Title reign.

Mike Sydal vs Mike Mondo vs Mike Bennett vs Kenny King
This is basically everyone in the building who wasn’t booked into another match thrown together. Mondo and Bennett have issues after No Fear gatecrashed the Live Prodigy Service Announcement at Best In The World so there’s some heat at least. Sydal lost to Bennett last time we saw him on DVD too, so he has a reason to care as well. Not sure why King has been chucked into this – particularly since it was his last contracted ROH appearance. He and Rhett won the Tag Titles in New York, and whilst Rhett has a grudge match with Charlie Haas later, King is stuck playing at the kids table with another guy who won’t sign a contract (Bennett), a guy who isn’t good enough for one (Sydal) and Mondo…who falls somewhere between the two.

Bennett refuses to start the match and forcibly tags Mondo in to work with Sydal. No Fear too barely locks up with the youngster before walking out and making King start with him instead. Bennett pisses Kenny off by blind-tagging him out, then sauntering over and unwillingly tagging him back in. Sydal sets up for a dive….but is picked up by Prodigy for a PRESS SLAM TO THE FLOOR! Mondo angrily clotheslines Bennett over the top as well, then dives out after everyone else with a corkscrew pescado. Bennett really doesn’t like Mondo and angrily flings him into the guardrails, buying Sydal time to recover which he makes the most of to blast King with a tope suicida. Sadly for him he celebrates and walks right into a spinebuster to the apron from The Prodigy. Sydal makes a desperate tag to Mondo, but the ref doesn’t see it meaning Bennett gets to continue beating on him. Little Bourne does eventually get a hot tag to Kenny who cleans house on every opponent he comes across. Sydal to the top rope as the other three fight…MOONSAULT PRESS! FOUR-WAY SLEEPER HOLD! Mondo breaks that with what turned out to be a four-man jawbreaker. Shotgun Knees from King to Mondo, but Kenny turns into the Box Office Smash. Sydal jumps on the fallen Bennett with a standing moonsault…but puts his head up and eats Double Arm DDT from Mondo. No Fear wins at 11:26

Rating – ** – Kind of a boring match. King was way over as a face, and Bennett got plenty of heel heat – however, Mondo and Sydal were just kind of there, so it’s a shame that Mondo is the only guy with a contract and therefore the one that had to go over. Sydal still looks sloppy, light-weight and clumsy in there, and I really think he wouldn’t get half the bookings he gets were it not for the use of the Sydal name. The one thing I really liked about this was Bennett’s charisma and talent as a heel. There was no interference from Maria. The heat he was generating was all from his actions inside the ring and he carried most of this.

Tommaso Ciampa vs Eddie Edwards
Unless something went down at the TV tapings, there’s no real reason for these two to wrestle…but it should be a great match. Although they’ve not necessarily been in the main event much, or given many title opportunities, these guys have been having awesome 2012’s on the undercard and I’m looking forward to seeing them get it on in ROH for the first time. Eddie is a former World Champion so would represent a significant feather in the cap of the Dominant Male who is becoming increasingly unstable as he continues his post-Border Wars slump and his frustrations with The Embassy Ltd grow.

Interestingly Ciampa comes out with RD Evans, separate from Nana…then grabs the Prince for a Bare Knee Strike. He then plonks himself down in the corner like Raven waiting for the match to start. He seems dangerously unstable, so it’s almost surprising when the match begins and he showcases remarkable skill in a competitive exchange of holds and strikes in the early minutes. It doesn’t last forever though – finally he snaps, slaps Eddie in the face then takes him down to start clawing at his nose like a psychopath. Edwards retorts by hanging him up for a tree of woe dropkick, then the sliding dropkick from the floor. Next he pummels Tommaso with signature chops which noticeably scar up his chest…and apparently piss him off to such an extent that he storms out of the corner and DESTROYS him with a northern lariat. Edwards gives Ciampa and enzi kick, but finds the Backpack Stunner countered to the ELECTRIC CHAIR/OCEAN CYCLONE COMBO! Bare Knee Strikes are countered with another chop flurry from Eddie…who kicks Tommaso out of the ring for a MOONSAULT UP THE AISLE! Incredibly Ciampa seems to absorb that and as Eddie goes to pick him up he grabs the former Triple Crown champion and spears him THROUGH the guardrail! BELLY TO BELLY ON THE FLOOR by Edwards! They return to the ring after killing each other on the floor, with Die Hard scoring a nearfall with a sliding enziguri. Machine Gun chops crumple the Dominant Male in the corner, setting him up for the Boston Knee Party. Achilles Lock briefly applied but Tommaso is way too close to the ropes. KNEE STRIKE OUT OF THE ROPES! BARE KNEE STRIKE! Edwards looks unconscious! The two men crawl up the ropes stiffing lumps out of each other, with Ciampa eventually scooping Eddie up for an AVALANCHE AIR RAID CRASH! Project Ciampa countered with a rana for 2 as both guys seem to be running on empty. Edwards goes back to the Achilles Lock but this time Ciampa boots his way free and hits the pop-up dropkick. Eddie grabs him in a flash pin to win at 16:08

Rating – **** – These two guys both came from the Boston area, both had training from Killer Kowalski, and in truth have been some of the best parts about ROH’s midcard all year. I was pleased to see them thrown together, and delighted that they were given time to have a really decent match. I’d go so far as to say this is one of the best undercard matches ROH has had in 2012 thus far. Lots of hard hitting strikes, brutal suplexes and slams…but what I liked was that they never lost the crowd. They worked at a steady pace, continually upping the ante without ever getting too spotty or mindless. Again I don’t see why Ciampa is getting jobbed out, particularly to Eddie who hasn’t won a match with his actual finishers since the middle ages and just lost to Homicide who isn’t even a regular, but as a coming out party for Tommaso this can’t be underestimated. It wasn’t on ppv so it won’t have been seen by as many people as Ciampa/Lethal from Border Wars…but this was one of his best ROH matches and shows he is absolutely capable of delivering quality matches at a main event level if required.

BJ Whitmer talks to Veda about his match tonight – and openly blames his previous feud with Jimmy Jacobs for causing his hiatus from wrestling. He won’t let it happen again…

Jimmy Jacobs vs BJ Whitmer
There is a long history between these two. They are former Tag Champions, turned enemies and rivals when former manager Lacey came between them. They waged some violent wars, nearly killed each other with crazy bumps in Detroit and New York…and their feud ultimately ended at Supercard Of Honor 2 in a stunning Steel Cage war. Jimmy won that match, went on to form the Age Of The Fall and became a centrepiece of ROH until his departure in 2009, whilst BJ never really recovered from that and was unceremoniously dumped from ROH when Adam Pearce, leader of his faction the Hangman 3 sold out to Larry Sweeney. It took both men a long time to get their spots in ROH back…and who knows what could happen now they are thrown together in singles action again.

No fancy exchange of holds, they head straight to the centre of the ring and throw multiple punches at each other. Whitmer chases Jimmy out of the ring, giving him a number of wild trips into the barriers. Jacobs tries to throw a spear and throws himself HEAD FIRST into the guardrail again! But he’s used to absorbing pain when fighting Whitmer, and he absorbs that hard bump to come back by dropping an elbow off a steel chair. He tries to negate the size disparity between then with a cobra clutch, and when that doesn’t work he switches to a straight up choke. But BJ refuses to stay down, and stands up to floor his former partner with an exploder suplex. Rolling suplex combo gets 2 for the Ohio native…then he BOOTS JACOBS IN THE FACE! Jimmy’s pirouette through the air to sell that was awesome! Fisherman neckbreaker rolled into a bridging fisherman suplex gets 2. Jacobs has seen enough of being suplexed and hooks Whitmer up for the Contra Code which gets a nearfall in return. He’s so groggy he nearly falls out of the ring whilst climbing the ropes, and that delay leads to him MISSING the senton bomb. End Time COUNTERED with a northern lights suplex…but Jacobs holds on! NORTHERN LIGHTS SUPLEX TO THE FLOOR! At last that does break the End Time…and both men struggle to beat the count. Jimmy just about beats it, but as Whitmer looks set to join him Kevin Steen appears to distract him. That gets BJ counted out and hands Jacobs victory at 11:42

Rating – *** – Obviously not a patch on their 2006/7 feud, but there was enough good stuff in there to enjoy. The sequence around Whitmer trying to counter the End Time was particularly great. I’m not sure the crowd was all that familiar with the history between these two which certainly didn’t help. Of course the screwy finish is slightly annoying, but it does play into the gimmick of SCUM trying to cause chaos whenever they are in front of an ROH audience.

Veda Scott talks to Prince Nana about the breakdown in The Embassy Ltd. He says he is let down by Tommaso and disappointed he appears to have sided with RD Evans. Princess Mia interrupts wanting Nana to take her shopping…and it seems like there’s another breakdown taking place right there.

Charlie Haas vs Rhett Titus
This is billed as a grudge match, with Haas looking for swift revenge after the All Night Express beat WGTT to win the Tag Titles at Best In The World last week. It was actually Rhett who pinned Charlie to win the belts, so the Outlaw is extremely pissed. Titus also wants revenge since WGTT attacked Kenny and himself after the match, spoiling their victory celebrations.

Haas takes an age to get to the ring, and even longer to actually get going with Titus such is his desire to hurl abuse at various members of the audience. Finally he spends so long jawing with one guy in particular that he doesn’t notice Rhett strolling up behind him to deliver a flurry of chops. He continues to dominate until Haas takes the desperate step of hiptossing him over the ropes to the outside. That’s followed by some guardrail bumps and a nasty looking punt to the ribs which clearly leaves the Tag Champion rattled. Charlie is clever enough to drag Rhett right in front of one of the fans he was arguing with earlier, and giving Titus the guardrail backbreaker right in front of him. Back in the ring a sunset flip attempt is countered to another backbreaker continuing the abuse on that body part. The next few minutes follow the same pattern, with Haas beating on the back of Rhett whilst occasionally pouring to make ‘your mom’ jokes at guys in the crowd. Titus eventually mounts a comeback, landing a butt ugly neckbreaker for 2. Charlie soon has him on his back again with first a German suplex, then a belly to belly variant. He tries to bring a steel chair into the match, only to have it confiscated by the referee and very nearly losing the match as Titus drags him into a schoolboy pin. Next he swings the Tag Title belt at Titus…but it’s ducked. Rhett grabs it and runs at him…only for the referee to take the belt from him too. Haas gives Titus a DDT on the chair, unseen by the ref – and that’s the win at 14:13.

Rating – * – Long and boring with a lousy finish. I don’t actually dislike Haas as much as most, and this one was actually at it’s most entertaining in the early minutes when he was being a huge jerk. BUT, the heat segment in this was just awful. So slow, so boring…just not enjoyable to sit through in the slightest. Rhett was so obviously not the guy to get a good singles match out of Charlie, just as much as Haas was never the right singles opponent for Titus. I know King doesn’t have a contract, but I’d have much preferred Haas/King here. At least Kenny has the mobility and explosive offence to keep things moving.

The Briscoes keep it short and sweet with Veda…with Mark telling us not to expect a pretty match

Michael Elgin/Rhino vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
What an awesome HOT combination this is. I remember Elgin making his debut in ROH years ago with long hair, a lot more fat on him and basically looking like a chubby Rhino rip-off. Here he is in 2012 in the best shape and best form of his life – and now he does team with the Man Beast in what should be an exceptionally powerful and dangerous team. The Briscoes have had problems with the House going back to Battle In The Carolinas when they failed to win the $10,000 Elimination Tag. Truth Martini wasn’t happy that the Briscoes defeated the Guardians Of Truth at Best In The World, so sends Unbreakable and the hired enforcer to do the job on the chicken farmers from Delaware.

Having Corino on commentary for a Rhino match, given their history in ECW, is really unique. Mark starts with Elgin and, of course, is easily thrown around by Unbreakable. Rhino forcibly tags himself in with Jay, and surprisingly the Briscoes enjoy more success against the veteran. Double football tackle scores and drives the Man Beast out of the ring! Mark chases with a cannonball senton off the apron. In the end Elgin takes matters into his own hands by dragging Jay under the ropes to murder him with the guardrails. ENDLESS stalling vertical suplex (with an added stroll around the ring for good measure) comes out next. The House Of Truth aren’t necessarily fluent as a team, but they are so powerful that they start to isolate Jay Briscoe with ease. SPINNING BACK FIST! Jay has his brains scrambled so it must be all instinct which sees him evade the Buckle Bomb and deliver the turnbuckle flatliner. Hot tag to Mark, who’s Redneck Kung Fu is so powerful it is able to overrun two huge guys like his opponents this evening. He sets up the Froggy Bow only for Martini to distract him. Jay helps his brother with a second rope Russian legsweep on Elgin…and NOW it’s time for the Froggy Bow. Splash Mountain Neckbreaker blocked…ELGIN WITH A DOUBLE ALABAMASLAM ON THE BRISCOES! Rhino almost throws Mark out of the ring with a belly to belly suplex…and Mark has to recover quickly to evade the Gore. Elgin walks into a rolling DVD from Mark…GOOOOOOOOOOOORE! OUT OF NOWHERE! House Of Truth get the win at 12:23

Rating – *** – Of course all four were in house show mode, but this was still really entertaining. Elgin and Rhino need to team up more often as they are just colossal as a team. Rhino might not be the worker he once was, but he still has that amazing physical charisma and one of the most over finishes in wrestling…whilst Elgin’s strength is unreal. I thought Elgin played his character well tonight. His slow burn split from the HOT obviously isn’t a focus tonight, but he did enough with his body language and facials to clearly convey that he isn’t 100% happy with his role. It wasn’t needed but it added a nice layer of depth to what was otherwise a throwaway semi-main event.

Kevin Steen vs Roderick Strong – ROH World Title Match
Just 24 hours after losing his TV Title at the tapings, Roddy is looking to rebound in the strongest possible way: by regaining his World Championship. He earned this opportunity by beating Mike Bennett, Jay Lethal and Adam Cole in an exclusive match (included as a bonus on this DVD – it’s ok). Remember Cornette has decreed that Steen will now be defending the belt in every singles match he wrestles, so every match is going to be extremely tough for him. Strong may well have had more ROH World Title shots than anyone else in history. It was a huge moment for him in 2010 when he finally climbed the mountain, defeated Tyler Black and became World Champion for the first time. Following his former partner, friend and rival Austin Aries by becoming on the second ever 2-time ROH Champion would be a huge deal for the Messiah Of The Backbreaker.

Truth Martini busies himself shouting abuse at Steen, which gives Roderick a window to sprint across the ring and quickly beat the World Champion into the corner. It’s two minutes of non-stop punishment for the champion, ended when Steen manages to hang Strong in the ropes and drop him with a hanging DDT. Roderick tries to recover with chops…only to have one ducked and his arm smacking hard into the ringpost. Steen starts working over the hand, first by biting it them by bashing it into the guardrails. Roderick tries to throw a chop but it has no impact and causes him to fall to his knees in pain. But Strong has been around for a long time, and he soon figures out he needs to use elbows and kicks to mount a comeback instead. It has some success…until Kevin lays him out again with the pumphandle cradlebreaker. Cobra clutch applied – a genius move as it chokes Roddy AND pulls at his injured hand. Again Roddy tries elbow strikes and kicks, landing a jumping heel kick from the second rope for 2. Steen quickly knocks him back into the corner for the cannonball senton (called in Ron Burgandy style by Corino). Strong chases the champion up the ropes and uses his good arm to lift him into a superplex. Martini tries to nail Steen but gets the Book Of Truth SUPERKICKED into his face! Jacobs runs at Strong in return…and he gets dumped into the guardrails! APRON BOMB ON STRONG! Steen-ton Bomb gets knees (does he ever hit that anymore?)…but Strong’s hand is so f*cked he can’t even lift Steen for a backbreaker. SLEEPER SUPLEX NAILED! F-5 blocked…DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK NAILED! STEEN KICKS OUT! Orange Crush Backbreaker…but he can’t lift Steen! It’s that hand again! F-5 SCORES! Steen retains the title at 12:17

Rating – **** – I absolutely loved this match. I’m obviously a huge Steen fan, but I do feel it’s important to point out that it’s not just his character and microphone work in 2012 which deserves praise. Inside the ring he has been outstanding, and this match was no exception. We’ve seen Roderick challenge for the title multiple times, but rarely has any ROH Champion systematically dissected him like this. Basing the match around Steen working over Roderick’s hand was a great call, and they told the story perfectly. Strong did an amazing job selling it, and together they really put that hand injury over. After that ringpost chop Strong didn’t do a single wrestling move. Other than the superplex (where he used his good arm and had gravity on his side), once that hand was injured there were no backbreakers, Strongholds, Gibson Drivers or anything. He could only kick and elbow Steen, and that was never going to be enough to end Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare. Maybe this wasn’t the match you might have expected, but it was great nonetheless.

In the back after the match Steen refuses to put ROH over by standing on front of their banner to cut a promo. He tears the banner down and makes the camera pan round to show the sh*tty little room he’s being taped in. He won’t put over ROH’s illusions and vows to be a genuine World Champion. He’s beaten ROH’s last three champions (Davey, Eddie and Roddy) in the space of three weeks and restates his vow to the LAST Ring Of Honor champion.

Tommaso seems to be having a mental breakdown in his locker room. RD Evans is terrified, but makes his pitch for Ciampa to let him be his legal representation. Tommaso seems to be satisfied with that, and the show ends with Princess Mia trying to worm her way in with Evans now he seems to be the man in charge. He asks her to burn Tommaso’s old contract as the show ends…

Tape Rating – *** – I’m conscious that I’m giving this a 3* rating, yet even I find it hard to justify fans spending $20 on this. However, if you can pick this up in a sale or it gets put on for Ringside Members this one is a really fun show. There aren’t many long matches, and although not everything is great, there are some fun contests and two awesome main event level matches which it’d be a shame to miss out on. Edwards/Ciampa is a physical slug-out which represents Tommaso’s best straight-up wrestling match in his ROH career thus far, and the World Title main event is brief, but of an exceptionally high quality. To credit ROH, June has been a marked improvement on last month. The Nightmare Begins and this show have been decent B-shows with brilliant World Title matches, the TV product has improved and Best In The World was a great ppv. I really hope they can keep this momentum up as we move into the second half of 2012.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs Kyle O’Reilly (***)
2) Eddie Edwards vs Tommaso Ciampa (****)
1) Kevin Steen vs Roderick Strong (****)

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