ROH The Nightmare Begins 6/15/2012

ROH 306 – The Nightmare Begins – 15th June 2012

So May was a pretty crappy month for Ring Of Honor. The Border Wars ippv was solid, but followed up by average TV, a car crash of a show in Richmond and ended with Sinclair giving their ppv main event away on free television. June has been better thus far – as the company has shifted into gear preparing for Best In The World later this month. But before we get to the pay-per-view we have this stop off for a DVD taping in another new market. And clearly ROH are trying slightly harder with this show than Battle Of Richmond. The card is good (although I’ve been fooled by strong cards ‘on paper’ already this year – I’m looking at you Rising Above 2012) and DVD production is infinitely improved with moving menus and the TV show graphics which should really be on every show they release now. The headline bout is something we’ve long been waiting for, and been promised on multiple occasions. Supposedly the Briscoes/WGTT feud culminates tonight as Jay faces Charlie Haas in a Texas Death Match. The World Title is on the line as Kevin Steen defends against Eddie Edwards in a match I’m not sure makes total sense storyline-wise, whilst the TV Champion is in a four-way Proving Ground Match. The card is rounded out by juicy bouts like Lethal/Elgin, Richards/Mondo and C&C/ANX. We’re in Charleston, WV with Kevin Kelly and Jim Cornette.

SIDENOTE – It’s immediately clear why this DVD has better-than-normal graphics and post-production. Cornette in the booth, the announce team live on location…I presume this is being taped for Road Rage. I’ve no problems with that (see my rant after they put Steen/Richards on TV)…I just wish they’d put this much effort into every release.

Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander vs All Night Express
The All Nights are the designated #1 contenders to Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team and get their title shot at Best In The World. For them this is an opportunity to test themselves against quality opposition as they prepare for the big showdown. However, C&C it’s a chance to re-establish their own Tag Title aspirations. A big win here puts them at the top of the queue to meet the BITW winners in July, and avenges the defeat they suffered at the hands of ANX on episode 37 of the Sinclair show.

The crowd doesn’t seem to be mic’d up very well, but are vocally supportive of Rhett as he starts in the ring with Coleman. They even start booing as C&C hit a suplex/stereo kick combo for 2. Cedric takes the fight to King with a flying headscissors then a sliding enzi for another nearfall. Standing moonsault nailed as well – ANX really haven’t got going as of yet. Maybe they are distracted by the row of Hooters girls standing in the crowd. Alexander flings an enziguri at Titus, misses it…then POPS OFF THE MAT to hit it second time around! Finally Rhett shuts him down with the Thrust Buster. Slingshot back suplex nailed for 2. RUNNING HEEL KICK FROM KING! He sent Cedric flipping through the air with that! Alexander has to fight through both All Nights in order to get the vital tag to his partner. Things get increasingly sloppy and uncoordinated with C&C trying to run offence, so ANX act quickly to flatten Alexander with the triple boot combo. SPLIT LEG dropkick from Coleman to both opponents! HE ROLLS OF TITUS INTO A MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Cedric drops Titus with a Full Nelson Slam…still just 2! C&C set up the Super Rana/Frog Splash…only for King to save with the SHOTGUN KNEES! ROPE RUN SUPER SEX FACTOR FROM RHETT! SPRINGBOARD DOOMSDAY DEVICE! All Night Express take the win at 11:56

Rating – *** – Hot way to open the show as this was undeniably action packed. This could have really been a special way to get us going on this DVD if only they had been a tad less sloppy. Both teams made visible slip-ups which definitely hurt my enjoyment of it. I’m a fan of both these teams. C&C have been consistent all year despite being given NOTHING to do, whilst the All Nights are finally starting to get some rhythm and momentum back after Rhett’s injury. Both teams did some impressive, athletic and exciting things in this.

Mike Mondo talks to Veda Scott about his huge match with Davey Richards tonight. He doesn’t think Richards is the ‘best in the world’ – although he does respect him.

Mike Mondo vs Davey Richards
Although I strongly disagree with Kevin Kelly’s claim that Mondo has had ‘some of the finest matches in ROH in 2012’ (yes, he really said that), he has undeniably improved a lot since becoming a regular on the roster earlier this year. This encounter is a real chance to prove himself and his credentials to be a top level player in the promotion. Personally I’ve been a critic of his, but he obviously has a lot of support behind the scenes and if he can repay that faith by delivering a strong match with the best ‘worker’ in ROH, and the fans accept Mondo on Davey’s level, then who knows where this push could take him. Davey, like ANX in the last match, is preparing for his big title shot on ppv and needs some wins to build momentum going into New York.

Richards bridges into an instant kick to the shoulder – delivering an emphatic statement of intent to the over-confident Mondo. A slap and a couple of kicks have Mike diving through the ropes for cover seconds later. No Fear hasn’t started well, but fires back by trapping Davey in a pendulum stretch much to the surprise of the announce team at ringside. They run through an engaging exchange of holds on the canvas. Richards is more aggressive but Mondo hangs with him every step of the away and it ends up in an even stand-off. Mondo is tripped to the floor, into the path of the RUNNING PUNT from the apron! Mondo sells that so hard he does a standing back flip! The former World Champion scales the ropes to miss a double stomp…and Mondo SPEARS him through the ropes and into the guardrail! Davey immediately grasps at his ribs, and his opponent capitalises by running him sternum-first into the barricades again. The American Wolf is in trouble and noticeably injured, with Mike taking full advantage and clinging to a grounded bodyscissors hold. Richards throws a dropkick only to miss and come crashing down onto that wounded midsection once again. Such is his desire to continue attacking the injury that Mondo just hammers at him with headbutts and shoulder blocks. Even when cranking on a leg submission he grinds his fists down into the ribcage. Finally Davey counters a sunset flip attempt with a double stomp…with just two minutes left in the time limit. He dropkicks Mondo to the outside into the path of the TOPE SUICIDA! BOTH MEN DOWN! Just a minute left in the time limit as Richards lands a missile dropkick. Bridging German suplex…into the Anklelock! Leg grapevined! Can Mondo hang on?? He can! 15-minute time limit expires (at 14:52) meaning this one is a draw

Rating – *** – I’ve read a fair bit of criticism of this match, but for what it’s worth I really liked it. I have my usual complaints with both men (Mondo’s heat segment was pretty tedious, Davey’s selling was pretty average) but by and large they told a story and ran with it. I don’t even object to the finish. In ROH, when a champion’s World Title run ends, if they stay with the company (like Joe, Eddie, Aries, Danielson etc) their role is to have a rematch then to start putting over other guys. Davey has had his run. I question whether Mondo is the right guy to get the rub from Richards – but I do respect the sentiment. What I query is the timing. Davey has his rematch later this month and needs to look strong going into that. There will be plenty of time for him to put over Mondo or whatever guy Cornette has a boner for on any given night. Tonight Richards needed the win and it hurts his credibility not getting it.

Davey echoes the fans’ calls for ‘five more minutes’…but a limping Mondo opts to walk out.

Roderick Strong vs BJ Whitmer vs Kyle O’Reilly vs Adam Cole
I really don’t know how the Proving Ground rules will work when there are four guys in the mix, but somehow this is a Proving Ground Match meaning someone could walk away with a guaranteed TV Title opportunity. Strong has history with O’Reilly and Cole, and given how long they’ve been around the ROH scene, he’s obviously crossed paths with BJ before too. The interest here is whether Kyle and Adam, shortly before their Hybrid Rules Match at Best In The World, can control their dislike of each other for long enough to focus on the Television Championship.

First fall wins, and there isn’t a time limit as there is in standing Proving Ground rules. O’Reilly wastes no time laying into Cole with fierce elbows and kicks. That fight spills to the floor so I presume BJ and Strong are legal. Not that it matters to BJ as he mows down both former Future Shock members with a tope suicida. Strong piles out as well, and in the melee Whitmer and Kyle appear to be confirmed as legal. BJ looks for rolling suplexes on the youngster, only to find Strong waiting to interrupt him and kick him in the ribs. Adam tags in meaning he and Kyle can go right back to tearing into each other with strikes. Amusingly Roderick tags O’Reilly out by chopping him. Whitmer tags too and counters the Death By Roderick into a Golden Gate Swing for 2. Kyle TEES OFF on BJ, felling him with the Regalplex…but Strong is on hand to break the count. Cole in with the Flying Crossbody on Kyle! ROLLING ELBOW FROM O’REILLY! COLE NO SELLS! SHINING WIZARD! The Future Shock guys are KILLING each other every time they get in. Strong sneaks in to capitalise with the Half Nelson Backbreaker on Cole. Death By Roderick gets 2 before Whitmer breaks the count and floors the champ with an exploder. All four men are on the canvas! They all get up at once and take turns CLUBBING each other with elbows. WHITMER SUPLEXES O’REILLY TO THE FLOOR! BLACK SUPERKICK from Strong to Cole gets 2. Adam gets up and counters the Orange Crush Backbreaker – into a crucifix. HE WINS! Cole earns himself a TV Title shot with a win at 09:59

Rating – *** – Another super-fun little match as this show continues to be surprisingly decent. This won’t go down as a particularly memorable encounter but all four athletes work at a very high level and even in a largely forgettable spotfest they were visibly working hard and did some entertaining things. The Cole/O’Reilly exchanges were electric, which bodes well for New York after their first match was a wash out at Showdown In The Sun, whilst anyone who has been watching Roddy and BJ for years like I have knows they are good for a simple stiff, head-droppy, spotty sprint like this.

Totally Awesome vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
I’m not entirely sure why Jay finds himself working double duty for the second live event in succession, but there you go. I was impressed with the ‘Totally Awesome’ duo of Chris Silvio and Paredyse at The Battle Of Richmond. Silvio is obviously another Cornette guy, but he delivered an outstanding performance on that DVD and his team deserves this chance to work ROH’s premier tandem. If they can do something decent you’d assume that will mean permanent roster spots…

There’s some weird ‘radio wars’ back story to this with rival local DJ’s at ringside with the two teams. The Briscoes have as little interest in following the Code Of Honor as Paredyse has in ‘man-ing up’. Instead Paredyse pats an incredulous Mark on the ass and nearly gets his head taken off. He then tries to offer himself to Jay (I can’t describe it any differently) and gets clobbered again. The DJ Totally Awesome are representing somewhat foolishly distracts Jay, allowing Silvio to tag in. The Briscoes’ DJ then sweeps Chris’ leg in response. Now the two of them are in the ring, ultimately not fighting and not impacting the general direction of the match – i.e the Briscoes decimating Totally Awesome. Paredyse stops to molest his own partner…and it seems to spur Silvio on as he drops Mark to his knees with a low blow. Top rope leg drop misses though, and in comes Jay to continue the beatdown. Paredyse lands the worst DDT I’ve ever seen…and in come the DJ’s again (one of whom with his ass hanging out). Jay pins Paredyse at 08:22 after a chokeslam.

Rating – DUD – I really hope bringing in those two DJ’s added something to the gate, because otherwise that was embarrassing. The wrestling was awful, even as a squash, and the contributions of the two local guys was a farce. If these guys didn’t sell a few tickets then this is honestly the worst publicity stunt ROH have attempted in their history.

Jay Lethal vs Michael Elgin
These two haven’t crossed paths too often in the last year and this could be a decent match. Elgin has a title shot in his back pocket and wants to string some impressive wins together as he continues to enjoy a breakout year in his pro-wrestling career. Lethal, having ended Ciampa’s undefeated streak last month, is in a position where he could look to regain his TV Title, or he could start beating opponents of Elgin’s calibre on a regular basis and force his way into the World Title picture again.

We get off to a slow start with Lethal obviously keen to stay out of the clutches of his powerful opponent. He gets nowhere and starts getting frustrated…and is bowled over with a shoulder block after angrily punching Unbreakable in the mouth. Hiptoss Dropkick nailed…and Elgin quickly rolls outside for some recovery time. Truth Martini steps into the ring for a fight with the referee…and Paul Turner seems up for it! Truth flees…and Elgin blocks the Lethal Injection with a clubbing lariat to the back of the head. In a single shot Elgin just turned the bout on its head and puts himself in total control. He tosses Lethal out of the ring…where of course Martini is waiting to lay in some cheap shots. Back in the ring Michael gets 2 with a brutal neckbreaker. He maintains focus on Jay’s neck, and parks himself on top of the former TV Champion with a chinlock. Lethal is desperate to get this one over, and wildly goes for pinning combinations hoping to steal a flash pin. Lethal Combination blocked with a volley of elbow strikes. DEAD LIFT STALLING GERMAN SUPLEX…GETS 2! Lethal somehow absorbs that and blocks a running knee strike to deliver the Lethal Combination! Roderick Strong appears at ringside distracting Jay from hitting the Macho Elbow…and gets dropkicked for his trouble. Spiral Bomb set up…only for Roderick to stomp into the ring yelling at Elgin for letting him get dropkicked. The HOT argue…and Jay capitalises with the LETHAL INJECTION! He wins at 12:15

Rating – *** – I liked the match, although all the best bits were when Lethal and Elgin were allowed to just have a straight-forward, hard-hitting wrestling match rather than an overbooked, sports-entertainment style mess with Roderick Strong and Truth Martini involved. I get that this is being taped for TV and there are storylines to progress…but it doesn’t stop it being hugely frustrating. Obviously these guys are capable of better, and if ROH can hold onto them then I’m sure they’ll lock up again.

Elgin is understandably furious, particularly as Roderick seems to be blaming him. He refuses to shake hands, and says he’ll ‘kill’ Roddy if it happens again.

Kevin Steen vs Eddie Edwards – ROH World Title Match
Apparently this wasn’t scheduled to be a title match, but Cornette made it one after Steen pissed off some potential investors at a dinner. At least that is a slightly amusing way of explaining why Eddie is getting a title shot now, when he just started a program wrestling former World Champions (including a match set for the next ppv) to earn himself another title match. I like both these guys, and I hope the match is good. However, as with a lot of things in ROH recently, the booking here is f*cking terrible.

Jimmy Jacobs is in Steen’s corner (seriously, why is Jacobs basically a valet now?), and Corino joins commentary. Steen cuts an awesome promo demanding Cornette call him ‘Mr Wrestling’. Cornette counters by announcing that Steen will be defending the belt in every singles match he has until he loses it. Unfortunately that entire segment means Eddie becomes a massive heel. Jacobs immediately tries to distract Edwards…and is wiped out by a pescado from the challenger. He returns and nearly traps Steen in the Achilles Lock too! The champion flees…and hoists Edwards up for the apron powerbomb. COUNTERED with a rana by Eddie! But Steen isn’t finished…FALLAWAY SLAM INTO THE RAILS! Taking the fight to the floor was a big mistake it seems, and Eddie is getting severely punished. He gets his head bashed into the rails, and his face bitten as Corino encourages Jim Cornette to challenge Steen for the title next. Kevin Kelly laughably tries to say Edwards is more popular than Steen, as Eddie is getting boo’d out of the building and the entire building is chanting ‘Kill Steen Kill’ in unison. ‘You need to Wellness Test this guy’ – Corino to Cornette. The commentary is so funny it’s actually taking away from the match now. Steen points and laughs at the Executive Producer as he locks in a ‘from the 80’s’ chinlock! Edwards counters with a SUPLEX INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! Steen is rattled, but hoists the challenger into the pumphandle cradlebreaker for 2. ELBOW SUICIDA FROM EDDIE! AND A SECOND TO JIMMY JACOBS! Boston Knee Party (awesome name for that flying Codebreaker spot) gets 2! But Eddie misses a double stomp and gets powerbombed into the Sharpshooter. Edwards makes the ropes…and that comes back to haunt him as Steen hangs him in them for an elevated DDT! Cannonball Senton misses (because Steen spent too long hurling abuse at Cornette), and Edwards seizes the opportunity with a double stomp. DOUBLE STOMP ON THE APRON MISSES! STEEN POWERBOMBS EDWARDS THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! But STILL Eddie kicks out at 2! Steen-ton misses as usual…and Steen is so used to not hitting it that he just gets up into a SUPERKICK DUEL! Backpack Stunner COUNTERED TO A HEAD DROP SLEEPER SUPLEX! F-5! Steen retains at 15:16

Rating – **** – As a wrestling match this really wasn’t 4* quality. It was painfully one-sided and a total waste of Eddie challenging Steen for the belt. BUT, as a spectacle this was so much fun. The crowd (who have got louder and louder as the show has progressed) were so solidly behind Steen it was amazing, and the combination of that, Steen beating the sh*t out of Eddie in the ring and at times hysterical interactions between Corino, Kelly and Cornette on commentary made this a blast to sit through. If you want an insight into what is wrong with ROH – check out the moment Cornette and Kelly (booker and voice of the promotion) desperately try to insist Steen isn’t popular and isn’t what the fans want to see. It’s so painfully embarrassing and out of touch that Corino is visibly appalled and amused in equal measure. I’ve found a lot to criticise about ROH recently, but with Steen as champion it’s not all bad – and this match, ill-timed and damaging to Eddie Edwards as it was, was a terrific reinforcement of my belief that ROH is worth sticking with despite being at such a creative low.

Steen celebrates by stealing Cornette’s drink and spitting in it. Maybe it’s because Cornette has booked the show and he’s not in the main event despite being champion. It’s main event time now, featuring not Kevin Steen…but the guy the entire ROH fanbase wants to see – Charlie Haas.

Charlie Haas vs Jay Briscoe – Texas Death Match
This feud was supposed to end at Final Battle 2011. Then it was supposed to end at Border Wars in the Fight Without Honor. Then it was supposed to end at The Battle Of Richmond when these two guys tore the ring apart beating each other up. But tonight, finally, we are promised this will settle it. Shelton Benjamin isn’t here, and Mark Briscoe won’t be at ringside. It’s Haas vs Briscoe one more time for all the bragging rights.

Obviously there is no time for Bobby Cruise’s introductory guff as these two get right down to business. Briscoe gets the first pinfall in 11 seconds with a sunset flip…and there’s no ‘rest period’ as advertised – the fight continues. Briscoe slings Haas into the guardrails then rings the bell over his head…but that only seems to piss Charlie off as the Tag Champion retorts with a back suplex onto the guardrails. That’s enough to earn a fall back for him at 02:15. Neither man looks close to failing to answer the 10-count at this stage yet though. Haas gets another pin with a powerslam, and denies Jay a rest period as he continues to stomp on him. Jay is obviously struggling, and is tossed across the ring with a violent biel. Briscoe takes a rough ride into the barriers…made worse when Haas rams him face-first into a steel chair. The chair comes back to bite him in the ass though as Briscoe gathers his senses sufficiently enough to dish out a mafia kick which knocks the chair into Charlie’s face. Olympic Slam nailed…but it wipes the referee out in the process. Haas is pissed, and vents his frustration on Bobby Cruise before taking his table (freshly replaced after Steen broke it in the previous match). Jay then steals the table and whacks Charlie in the back with a chair. He goes backstage and returns with a cooler full of beer and assorted weaponry. Beer is thrown in Haas’ face, blinding him and giving Jay freedom to erect the table. DOUBLE STOMP THROUGH THE TABLE! Unfortunately Jay bounced off Haas and landed on top of the stricken official again. He opens up two chairs, and balances a section of chain-link fence between them. DVD THROUGH THE FENCING! A Singapore cane is brought into play…but Haas low blows Briscoe and steals it from him. Cane to the head of Jay! Haas digs under the ring and pulls out the towel and spray can…looking to repeat the finish of the Border Wars Fight Without Honor. Cue more bad acting from Kevin Kelly…but this time Jay ducks it and blasts him with the cane. He then smashes Charlie in the head with the spray can and he is motionless. He pins him…and Haas can’t answer the ensuing ten count. Jay wins at 19:23

Rating – *** – I’ve seen this one get some negative press, but personally I thought this was the best match in the Briscoes/WGTT feud…possibly in its entirety. Certainly it’s the best since the Briscoes/WGTT tag match at the 9th Anniversary. The Texas Death Match rules got some criticism, and I’ll admit it was a little outdated. However, I actually quite liked them. If ROH were serious about bringing this gimmick match back I wouldn’t object to it – they just need to build it into a bigger deal. As it was, the crowd took a while to get into this thanks to uncertainty about the rules. BUT, once they were into it, this Charleston crowd (who have been really good) were into everything. Haas was getting monster heel heat, and every Jay Briscoe comeback was cheered to the rafters – and that’s what wrestling is supposed to be about. Ultimately, this feud has sucked…but it should be over now and this was at least an entertaining way to end it

The crowd ended up enjoying that one so much they gave it a standing ovation and a deafening ‘that was awesome’ chant as the show ends. Jesus guys…I didn’t think it was that good!

Tape Rating – *** – Call me crazy, but I actually quite liked this show. It was supposed to be Road Rage, but in reality this was basically just a full TV taping in a different building and released on DVD. As a result, none of the in-ring action was too consequential but it also meant nothing went long, we got lots of snappy matches and this show breezes by at just over 2 hours. Other than the popcorn ‘Radio Wars’ tag, everything reaches a decent standard, and I don’t see how anyone couldn’t be entertained by the Steen/Edwards match – even if it’s mostly laughing at Jim Cornette’s expense. Again I have problems with the booking of this show – but the great wrestling talent there is in Ring Of Honor was able to pull a decent live event out of the bag DESPITE the constraints of the backward, Smokey Mountain-esque creative direction they are being forced down. If this is in a sale, or available to watch as premium content for Ringside Members it’s definitely worth checking out. Nothing is amazing, but with barely a bad match to be had…I promise you it’s not a waste of your time.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Briscoe vs Charlie Haas (***)
2) Davey Richards vs Mike Mondo (***)
1) Kevin Steen vs Eddie Edwards (***)

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