ROH 318 – Defy Or Deny 2 – 19th January 2013
After I finished my review of last night’s event (The Hunt For Gold), I did a little search around the web – and it seemed like a lot of critics actually liked the Dearborn show a whole lot more than I did. I’m taking that as a positive sign, rather than an indication of myself becoming jaded. The reality is that Ring Of Honor are finally starting to pick their game up again – with fans and critics alike both noticing the dramatic upturn in the quality of the product. Sure I felt last night had some issues, but a house show with two great matches like Cole/Jacobs and Briscoes/Wolves absolutely smokes some of the worst shows of 2012 – like Battle Of Richmond, Rising Above 2012, Underground etc. Personally, I think that tonight, the second in a (now increasingly rare) double shot weekend of live DVD events has the much stronger card – and should be a better show. The headliner is the titular ‘Defy Or Deny’ Match, with three top contenders vying to earn a future title shot at Kevin Steen – who in turn is looking to put one of them out of the championship picture for good. We also have the long-awaited grudge match between Davey Richards and Kyle O’Reilly which got a lot of people talking. Matt Hardy works the second match of his latest ROH tenure against BJ Whitmer, the Briscoes and Jay Lethal face SCUM in a trios tag, plus Charlie Haas and Rhett Titus look to settle their feud which has stretched back for months. We’re back in Milwaukee, WI (the same super-cool theatre venue as last time). Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness will provide the commentary.
SIDENOTE – This venue looks even better now Sinclair have forked out to bring proper camera equipment to tape the show. I really hope ROH/SBG have ditched the sh*tty cameras for house shows now and will bring the TV equipment to every event. If they’re asking people to pay for both VOD and DVD they really have a duty of care to do so.
Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness tape an intro in a balcony over looking the arena. Supposedly the crowd was substantially up on what ROH was expecting and really packed the place out.
Adam Cole vs Silas Young
For the second night in succession Adam Cole is in Proving Ground action. Yesterday he was taken to the limit by a determined Jimmy Jacobs – but showed great resilience to leave Michigan with the victory. It’s an altogether different challenge tonight though. Where last night he was facing a crafty veteran intent on proving he still had ‘it’, this evening he has a well-travelled independent wrestler with vast experience, just looking to prove he has what it takes to earn a permanent spot.
Young is in his home region so has his fair share of supporters. They are immediately delighted when Silas delivers a few early takedowns on the TV Champion. Cole goes for an ambitious back drop driver to the floor…but winds up getting kicked off the apron instead. Just as he did yesterday, Young brings non-stop aggression – chasing Adam out of the ring to batter him into the metal guardrails. Back in the ring he whips Cole into the buckles with such force that the champ crumples to the mat and is visibly unable to stand in the moments following it. Of course, Cole does eventually get himself going in the match – springing up into a leaping neckbreaker then the Shining Wizard for 2. DVD over the knee nailed, but again Silas gets the shoulder up. He punts Cole straight in the mouth and hits a SICK scoop facecrusher. CRADLEBREAKER NAILED BY COLE! Young gets to the ropes! Figure 4 blocked, then countered into the cradle backbreaker from Silas. Finlay Roll nailed…ARABIAN PRESS COUNTERED TO A SCHOOLBOY FOR 2! Young tries it again – and eats a superkick as he headstands in the corner! FLORIDA KEY! Cole goes 2-0 for the weekend at 08:39
Rating – *** – What a hot opening match that was. In truth they didn’t stray too far from their basic spots, but the crowd was so vocal and pumped for what they were doing that it lifted everything into a higher gear. Young has delivered too really underrated little matches this weekend – and I really can’t believe someone like QT Marshall has a spot over him. You can also see why there are increasingly strong rumours that WWE are watching Cole. He is churning out quality performances on almost every show he wrestles at this point.
Bobby Fish vs Tadarius Thomas
It was in this very building last July that TD exploded onto the ROH scene with a really solid house show debut against Fish’s tag partner Kyle O’Reilly. He lost the match that night, but was so impressive he was immediately contracted and has been appearing regularly ever since. This one should be an intriguing clash of styles as both are not only decent wrestlers, they’re also extremely proficient mixed martial artists.
It’s quickly evident that these two have a great respect for the skills of their opponent. Their initial lock-ups are extremely tentative with both clearly wanting to avoid making an early mistake. Fish obviously wants to keep the match on the deck to negate Thomas’ strikes – and he sets about doing that by locking in a toehold and holding him away at arms length to evade the flailing arms thrown his way. He seems to focus on TD’s midsection, looking to open up a rib injury to stop Thomas being able to roll around and throw those capoeira strikes. Even when Tadarius tries to throw some punches, Fish is able to cut him off with a swift shot to the stomach. After five minutes of punishment Bobby gets his first nearfall – flooring Thomas with a kick to the head. A Samoan drop puts TD on the deck again moments later. But finally Tadarius manages to strong together some shots – clutching his ribs as he cartwheels into a couple of kicks, followed by the Sling Blade for 2. Truth Martini is at ringside scouting Tadarius too apparently. He lands the tiger suplex, but is in such pain he can’t maintain the bridge sufficiently to stop Fish collapsing in the ropes. Fish dives out of the way of another Tadarius kick attempt, causing him to rattle his shin into the ring post. It obviously hurts TD, and Fish capitalises by drilling the leg into the apron. Kicks to the ribs and legs follow, hurting Thomas to the extent that he desperately looks for flash pins to finish the match. Fish locks in a knee bar to win the match at 09:51
Rating – *** – This won’t have been to everyone’s liking, but I really like this brand of MMA-influenced pro-wrestling – particularly when it’s done to tell an intriguing story throughout a match. I really dug Fish’s strategy. He attacked the ribs (which Tadarius did a decent job of selling), but he did so with such ferocity that, in turn, it really put over how dangerous Thomas can be. It also meant TD didn’t necessarily have to throw too many of his gimmicky kicks to get over. I liked that, even with Kyle O’Reilly and Truth Martini at ringside, they let these two go to a clean finish rather than engage in any ‘hoopla’. I’m a fan of these two so I’d be up for seeing them lock up again. Certainly they are two of the strongest additions to the roster in 2012
Charlie Haas vs Rhett Titus
This one stretches back to Best In The World 2012, when Titus pinned Haas to win the Tag Titles for the All Night Express. It was a career highlight for Rhettski, but a short-lived one as Kenny King’s departure to TNA meant he didn’t have long to bask in the glow of victory. With King in TNA, Titus was left to deal with the full force of WGTT’s dissatisfaction (particularly Charlie’s). They formed an uneasy alliance in an attempt to win the vacant belts at Death Before Dishonor 10, but after that fell apart these two have been out for each other’s blood. There’s no Shelton and no BJ or Kenny tonight. Can Haas prove that his Best In The World loss was a fluke, or can Titus prove once and for all that he’s the better man?
Haas can barely get a promo out he’s so hated…and the match starts with Titus blasting him in the head with one of his own cans of beer. Charlie tries to leave the ring and create some distance, using it to buy some recovery time before splattering Rhett into the ringpost. He then buries him under a crash barrier and rattles it with a chair – with Nigel and Kevin frantically trying to cover that inexplicably not being a disqualification. Chinlock from Haas (who probably needed a rest spot), with the crowd heckling by chanting ‘Shelton’s better’. The chinlock spot stretches on for a good couple of minutes so it’s to the Milwaukee crowd’s credit that they are still red hot for this. IED from Titus, into a Rydien bomb for 2. He hits the Thrust Buster to counter a German suplex attempt…only to walk into the Olympic Slam moments later. Titus won’t allow himself to be pinned so Haas tosses him to the outside for the back suplex over the guardrails. He pulls out his crate of beer again…but as the ref takes it back Titus waffles him with another stray can. SUPER UGLY FROG SPLASH from Titus gets knees. And for no apparent reason that’s enough for Haas to win at 12:03
Rating – DUD – The live crowd deserve a heap of credit for this. They were amped for the whole thing, which was borderline unbelievable considering how poor the action was. Titus was his usual immobile, clumsy self, and Haas was a TERRIBLE opponent for him considering he was slow and in no mood to bump or sell a lot. Couple that with a ridiculous finish which made both guys look like complete tools and you’ve got yourself an early candidate for worst match of the entire year. If both these two left ROH tomorrow I really wouldn’t miss them at all. I feel bad for Rhett because it’s not all his fault. And I know Haas’ crazy heel stuff is over with a portion of the fan base. But that’s how I feel.
Steve Corino/Jimmy Jacobs/Rhino vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe/Jay Lethal
The war between ROH and SCUM continues to escalate. The Briscoes haven’t gotten along with SCUM for months – as was evident last time we were in this building when Mark dived off a balcony to put Kevin Steen through a table. Now they’re joined by Jay Lethal, who has suffered a few beatings at the hands of Corino and company – and is desperate to beat up Steen’s cronies even if he isn’t allowed to challenge for the World Championship. This is the first time Rhino has appeared with, and been officially billed as part of SCUM.
The babyfaces jump the heels to get us started, kick-starting a brawl which brings referees piling out from the locker room in an attempt to break it up. Lethal and the Briscoes try to isolate Corino, barely letting him out of their corner as they stomp him into the canvas. Eventually Rhino and Jacobs have to take cheap shots at Jay Briscoe, distracting him for long enough to allow Steve to hit the Colby Shock then tag out. The tables are instantly turned with Jay cut off from his partners and sustaining heavy damage. Lethal comes to his aid, nearly murdering Jacobs with the Lethal Combination. Lethal Injection blocked though, with Corino on hand to illegally clothesline him from the apron. Opportunity knocks for SCUM who now have Lethal, one of their arch enemies in ROH, at their mercy. Somehow Jay hits a handspring elbow which takes Rhino off his feet – and he lunges into the hot tag. As you could probably predict, it’s the Redneck Kung Fu of Mark which brings his team back into the contest. All six men spill into the ring…MACHO ELBOW on Rhino! FOLLOWED BY THE FROGGY BOW! Corino and Jacobs dive in at the last to break the count. Jimmy evades the Doomsday Device, and Mark doesn’t see the GOOOOOOOOOOORE coming! Rhino pins Mark at 11:52
Rating – *** – Pretty basic and by the numbers, but there was enough experience, presence and charisma between the six men involved to carry it along. SCUM, in particular, were great as a heel unit. Corino is an obvious lightning rod for heat, but Jacobs’ act as the weird, spacey sidekick in SCUM is really entertaining in an understated little way. In the end this will probably go down as an instantly forgettable match, but I was never bored watching it.
Matt Hardy vs BJ Whitmer
There’s no real reason for this match to take place. Hardy has made it known he wants to get into the TV Title picture, off the back of his victory over Adam Cole at Final Battle. And since he can be considered one of the top contenders to that belt, Whitmer has to know that a victory over Matt tonight instantly springboards him into contention for that championship too.
Adam Cole has joined the commentary team for this match – pretty entertaining considering his feud with Hardy started when Matt commentated on one of his matches. Matt himself gets on the stick to b*tch about not getting a TV Title shot already. He starts the match trying to bash Whitmer with a cheap shot, only to fail and have to flee to the outside. Hardy is hobbling around like Rhett Titus already by the way. He eats an elbow suicida from BJ – who himself isn’t 100% and is still suffering from injuries sustained at Final Battle. Hardy capitalises on that, shoving him onto his bad neck, then diving off the ropes to land an elbow smash to that same body part. He looks for an early Twist Of Fate, and when BJ blocks that he switches up to hit a SICK high angle DDT instead. Amusingly, Matt looks totally gassed after dropping a few leg drops and nearly falls over as he tries to pose to the fans whilst catching his breath. Predictably the pace slows – first with Matt working a cravat, before he changes up and opts to simply stand on BJ’s injured neck. Whitmer tries to retaliate with a clothesline only for the pair to collide in the middle of the ring, with BJ dropping down onto his neck again. He fights through the pain to hit a rolling suplex combo for 2. Exploder COUNTERED to the Side Effect! The fans get on Matt with a ‘same old sh*t’ chant…and sensibly he rewards them by going straight to the ropes to attempt his signature taunting leg drop. Whitmer catches him in mid-air though, turning him into a fisherman’s neckbreaker! Hardy hits a back drop driver, into the Twist Of Fate…1 COUNT OF DISRESPECT! Hardy tries it again…and BJ nearly counters it into a schoolboy for the win! Twist Of Fate nailed…2 count! Hardy locks in the butterfly stretch with Whitmer trapped in the middle of the ring. He refuses to tap…so Rhett Titus runs out to throw in the towel for him at 12:21
Rating – *** – I hated the finish, but giving credit where it’s due, I thought before that both men contributed to producing a super little wrestling match. Like I said when he returned to ROH back at Rise & Prove last year – the ROH roster is a very different place now than it was back in 2003-2008 during BJ’s last years in this company. On this roster he is an outstanding worker, and he oozed quality tonight. As for Hardy, no matter how fervently I disagree with booking him, no matter how strongly I think he’s a colossal waste of money…I can’t deny that he was as responsible for the quality of this match as Whitmer was. The way he worked the crowd was entertaining as hell. He didn’t do a lot, but he pulled out all his signature moves at just the right time, so as to get the maximum response from his audience. The finish was crap though. The Twist Of Fate kick-outs were overkill (particularly the second one) and Rhett’s appearance at the end was a real anti-climax – albeit one that will seem a lot more significant come the end of the 11th Anniversary Show.
Titus immediately crawls into the ring to check on his injured tag partner, with Nigel McGuinness soon appearing at ringside too. Hardy seizes the opportunity to vehemently petition Nigel for a TV Title shot. Adam Cole interrupts him, which is just as well because Matt is so gassed he’s not making a lot of sense. They have to be separated as a fight breaks out…and Hardy pounces to lay Cole out with the title belt.
Kyle O’Reilly vs Davey Richards
This isn’t a first time match for ROH, but it’s certainly one we’ve been keenly anticipating for some time. O’Reilly was a protégé and tag partner for Davey, before he spectacularly walked out on Team Ambition back at Best In The World 2012. He formed a new association with Bobby Fish, and cemented it by assaulting Davey at the Pittsburgh TV tapings – and even though they lost to the reformed American Wolves at Final Battle, the heat between them is still very much at boiling point. Will Davey teach some respect to his former pupil, or will Kyle continue to break-out, and make a huge statement by defeating his former mentor tonight?
Kyle interrupts Davey’s entrance with the MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON! This fight is underway in a hurry! The bell hasn’t even rung and Kyle is already dominating. He batters Richards into the guardrails, stealing his vest in the process. Davey doesn’t like that and retaliates with his running punt from the apron! Arm Capture Cloverleaf applied as the bell finally rings. O’Reilly tries to escape to the turnbuckles, only to be dragged out into a wild kick to the face. They fight to the apron, where somehow O’Reilly counters Davey to hit a BRAINBUSTER ON THE APRON! He collapses holding his neck, and much as we saw in the last match, Kyle is quick to counter by grabbing onto a Guillotine Choke. Richards tries to trade strikes with his former protégé, but this time as a wounded animal. He is outgunned by Kyle, who absolutely batters him with a volley of rapid-fire strikes for 2. To the canvas they go – and again it’s O’Reilly who impresses as he counters whatever Davey throws at him before rolling him into a Fishhook Crossface! Richards misses a double stomp…but as Kyle tries to pin him Davey rolls straight back through and this time NAILS the double stomp! Awesome little sequence there which leaves both men on the deck. O’Reilly is sent to the floor and immediately mowed down with a HEAD-FIRST TOPE SUICIDA! Both men are hurt but still they roll back inside to unload slaps on each other. Handspring Enzi gets Richards a 2-count. SNAP GERMAN! Kyle is really struggling now…but somehow he fires back with a rugged unprotected knee right across the jaw. Regalplex COUNTERED TO THE ANKLELOCK! O’Reilly kicks free…ALARM CLOCK TURNED INTO THE REGALPLEX! The crowd is eating this up now, and they are given ample time to cheer and chant with both competitors struggling to get back to their feet. At last they come back to the centre of the ring – tearing into each other again with more strikes. MACHINE GUN KICK DUEL! BACK DROP DRIVER BY KYLE! BACK DROP DRIVER BY DAVEY! STEREO KNOCK-OUT KICKS! BOTH MEN DOWN! Having been beaten senseless, they both look disorientated as they stumble towards the corner. Headbutts are traded over the turnbuckles…and it’s Kyle who snatches the advantage with a back superplex! GUILLOTINE CHOKE! Davey escapes and is promptly punished with a mafia kick. BRAINBUSTER…GUILLOTINE CHOKE AGAIN! ANKLELOCK ON KYLE! ALARM CLOCK! TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER…FOR 2! Richards dives into a flying double stomp but it’s still not enough. O’Reilly actually raises his arms and GRABS the ref’s arm to stop him counting the three! BUZZSAW KICK! O’Reilly is out! Richards wins at 19:00
Rating – **** – I can see why some people didn’t rate this – as it was heavy on the head drops, ‘fighting spirit’ no sells and breathless false finishes. Personally I’m a fan of this style, can appreciate it for what it is – and there’s no denying that, for this particular style of pro-wrestling, this was really quite spectacular. It’s obvious these two know each other very well – to the extent that it almost counted against them. Some of their counter sequences were so seamless it actually started to look a little over-rehearsed. Ultimately, Davey has nothing to prove and he pretty much delivered a standard Davey Richards match. The real outstanding performance was from O’Reilly. He’s always had the skills, but in recent months he’s really started getting over with the ROH crowd as a heel. If he can combine his admirable in-ring skills with a gimmick that really connects with the fans then the sky truly is the limit for him. This was main event level stuff from the young man, which is hugely promising from Ring Of Honor’s perspective. I’d go so far as to say that ROH missed a chance to really pull the trigger on the kid – and put him over Davey here.
Kevin Steen vs Eddie Edwards vs Roderick Strong vs Michael Elgin – Defy Or Deny Match
The rules for this one are pretty simple. It’s elimination style; if Eddie, Roddy or Elgin win then they get a title shot – but if Steen wins, the final loser is blocked from the title picture. It’s only the second Defy Or Deny Match in ROH history, but the winner of the first one is here tonight. Roderick Strong defeated El Generico to win the first one – and will be looking to repeat that feat tonight even at the expense of former rival Eddie Edwards and former stable-mate Michael Elgin. With Jay Lethal already boxed out of championship contention, Mr Wrestling will know this is a real opportunity to prolong his title reign by removing another top quality competitor from his radar.
Elgin gets us started by socking Strong in the mouth as he tries to trash all of his opponents on the stick. Elbow suicidas from Eddie quickly follow – a trifecta of them scoring on all three opponents. APRON BOMB on him by Steen! In the ring Elgin pops the crowd with a huge stalling vertical suplex on Roddy. Even Steen can’t help but applaud as he crosses the 60-second threshold with Strong still high above his head. He teases trying a stalling suplex on Elgin, only to plant him with a DDT instead. Roderick looks to capitalise on that and tosses Steen out of the ring so he can continue to fight it out with his former House Of Truth colleague. Eddie Edwards, meanwhile, is struggling to get involved at all. He’s still feeling the effects of the apron bomb, and keeps getting bashed off the apron every time he tries to re-enter. DEAD-LIFT GERMAN from Elgin to Steen! EDDIE PRESS SLAMS STEEN OFF THE APRON ONTO THE ENTRANCE RAMP! That’s one way to involve yourself! Elgin isn’t bothered though, trying to scoop both Edwards and Strong up for a double Alabamaslam. It’s blocked though, with Eddie and Roddy briefly forming the Dojo Bros in ROH to hit a double mafia kick on Elgin. It’s short-lived though, with Roderick quickly hitting Edwards with the urinage backbreaker. Black Hole Slam from Elgin to Strong gets 2! That leaves Die Hard and Unbreakable alone, and they make the most of the spare time to lay into each other with some really violent shots.
Boston Knee Party COUNTERED TO AN AIR RAID CRASH! Edwards blocks the dead-lift superplex but still falls to the outside. Buckle Bomb on Strong! FALLAWAY SLAM/SAMOAN DROP COMBO on Steen and Strong! Eddie tries to lariat Elgin…but the big man steadfastly refuses to fall go down. Chaos Theory…turned into a lariat when Edwards lands on his feet! F-5 ON ELGIN! FOR 2! ORANGE CRUSH BACKBREAKER FROM STRONG TO ELGIN! Roddy eliminates Unbreakable at 15:52! It’s another victory for Strong over his former team-mate, but his celebrations are short-lived as Eddie lifts him into the Backpack Stunner. STEEN-TON BOMB ON EDDIE! Strong counters the F-5 into DEATH BY RODERICK! The Dojo Bros stare across the ring at each other, and promptly unleash some HORRIFYING chops! Achilles Lock blocked…Stronghold countered…ACHILLES LOCK! WITH FACE STOMPS! SOMERSAULT LEG DROP BY STEEN! Strong is unconscious, and Sinclair declares him eliminated at 19:41 leaving Steen and Eddie as the final two. With the referee tending to Strong, he doesn’t see Steen boot Eddie in the balls. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! FOR 2! Kevin tries another Steen-ton Bomb only to get knees this time! He rolls to the apron, then rolls in to evade the double stomp from Eddie. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER ON THE APRON! Is Eddie still alive? Obviously he’s out, and Kevin Steen takes the win at 21:17
Rating – **** – What wasn’t to like about this one? It was twenty minutes ROH’s best workers dropping spot after spot on each other. The Strong/Elgin exchanges were as smooth and exciting as they were at Final Battle. Steen, as ever, excelled as the centrepiece of the match (and of Ring Of Honor generally right now)…whilst Eddie Edwards held this match together. He is such an underrated talent. He’s been nothing more than a midcard act since Final Battle 2011, but whenever he does get a chance like this at main event level he produced the goods. Personal highlight of the match for me was Strong’s elimination. The sight of Eddie bashing Strong’s brains in, only for Steen to arrive and put the icing on the cake (and eliminate Roddy) with the leg drop was really spectacular. I think the people calling this an early MOTYC are a tad enthusiastic (personally I preferred Davey/Kyle over this)…but it was a brilliant main event and miles above what we were getting at similar house shows throughout 2012.
As a testament to his own skill, and to Eddie’s enduring popularity, Steen gets nuclear heat for winning. He then stirs the crowd up further for berating those who are throwing trash at them, and the show ends with referees and security having to restrain a fan as Steen taunts him…
Tape Rating – *** – A big improvement on last night’s event in my opinion. Much as with ‘The Hunt For Gold’ it had two 4* showstealers which stood head and shoulders above everything else on their respective cards. The difference was that tonight the undercard was actually decent too. Sure most of it was total house show stuff, but at least it was entertaining to watch and at a decent standard (excluding Haas/Titus – which was a total mess from two guys who have had awful weekends). And for all the heat he’s getting, you have to be fair to the guy and say that even Matt Hardy delivered the goods in his match. This isn’t too expensive to at least check out on VOD – and it’s well worth the money.
Top 3 Matches
3) Matt Hardy vs BJ Whitmer (***)
2) Kevin Steen vs Eddie Edwards vs Roderick Strong vs Michael Elgin (****)
1) Davey Richards vs Kyle O’Reilly (****)
Top 5 The Hunt For Gold/Defy Or Deny 2 Weekend Matches
5) Matt Hardy vs BJ Whitmer (*** – Defy Or Deny 2)
4) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs American Wolves (**** – The Hunt For Gold)
3) Adam Cole vs Jimmy Jacobs (**** – The Hunt For Gold)
2) Kevin Steen vs Eddie Edwards vs Roderick Strong vs Michael Elgin (**** – Defy Or Deny 2)
1) Davey Richards vs Kyle O’Reilly (**** – Defy Or Deny 2)