ROH The Hunt For Gold 1/18/2013

ROH 317 – The Hunt For Gold – 18th January 2013

It’s over a month since Final Battle. That’s a lot of time to stew on the events of that fateful evening in New York. Kevin Steen is still the ROH World Champion, having survived his own personal worst nightmare of El Generico in Ladder War 4. Adam Cole is being hunted by Matt Hardy. The House Of Truth has fallen apart leaving Roderick Strong, Michael Elgin and Rhino all dangerous and unmanaged forces. Jay Lethal skulks on the undercard like a stroppy teenager, still boxed out of the World Title picture. The American Wolves are back and, of course, we also saw a major dent SCUM’s plans to bring down ROH in the form of the Briscoes defeating Corino and Jacobs to become 8-time Tag Team Champions. That is the back drop for tonight’s proceedings. The headline bout is something we’ve not seen for a while – the Briscoes making their first defence of the tag belts against the reformed American Wolves. That’s a match sure to sell some DVD’s by itself. We also have Kevin Steen defending the World Title, with Match Maker Nigel McGuinness taking the unprecedented step of handing newcomer Tadarius Thomas the championship opportunity. We also have a 2013 ‘Battle Of The Bulls’ as Michael Elgin faces Rhino and the much-praised TV Title Proving Ground contest between Adam Cole and Jimmy Jacobs too. We return to Dearborn, MI for the first time since 2011 – and join Kevin Kelly alongside Nigel McGuinness. Since ROH now wants to get their shows on for VOD streaming within a week of their live events, it now means we have live commentary. In turn this should speed up DVD production – and also add some intensity and immediacy which has always been missing from ROH commentaries when they are taped in a studio during post-production. Another positive step for ROH in 2013.

These live events now also have the ROH on SBG opening video. It’s been updated for the new year (replacing the sh*tty old one which was basically just WGTT taping up, and a bit of Davey Richards), and it’s really high quality. Lots of great action and clever effects to really make Ring Of Honor’s product pop out at you from the opening moments of a broadcast.

Kyle O’Reilly/Bobby Fish vs Rhett Titus/BJ Whitmer
Fish and O’Reilly still haven’t officially adopted the reDRagon name for their team yet, so I won’t include it on my reviews. This should be a solid opening contest between three really talented and capable technicians – plus whatever Rhett Titus can do.

‘They seem to have come together very quickly’ – Kevin Kelly on the Titus/Whitmer team as they botch a high five. Was he being ironic? O’Reilly starts with Whitmer, in predictably crisp fashion. They quicken the pace with a near-miss sequence, with neither man able to solidify an advantage. Titus tags in (still limping) and is full of aggression, quickly negating Fish’s MMA striking skills to simply beat on him in the corner. He drives Bobby out of the ring with his signature dropkick…then limps into a HORRIBLE-looking somersault plancha to take out both reDRagon members. He lands with a splat on the unprotected wooden floor, and although he bounces up quickly reDRagon are soon all over him – with O’Reilly delivering a cheap knee in the back to hand the advantage to Fish as the legal man. Tilta-whirl backbreaker/flying knee drop combo gets 2. Titus cuts a helpless figure as Fish and O’Reilly relentlessly assault him. There’s a loose focus on the back but more often than not they are simply concentrating on decimating their weary adversary. Somehow Rhett hits a spinning lawn dart on Fish and lunges into the hot tag to Whitmer. Rolling suplexes get a 2-count on O’Reilly, as does a ROLLING fisherman neckbreaker combo! Half the arena lights go out as BJ knees Kyle in the face, feeding him into Titus’ Thrust Buster. Bobby buys his partner some time by dropkicking Whitmer to the floor. MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON by O’Reilly! That leaves Titus fighting both opponents by himself – and is immediately smashed to pieces with a flurry of kicks from a merciless reDRagon. BUZZSAW KICK BRAINBUSTER COMBO! reDRagon win at 12:50

Rating – ** – This was a tough match to rate. When Fish or O’Reilly were in there with Whitmer it was really good. The problem is that Titus is so horrible that he dragged the vast majority of the match down with his presence. I feel for Rhett. He’s an independent wrestler, so he has to work to make money. But ever since his knee problems of 2011 he’s been a shadow of his former self, and honestly his performance here was a joke. The guy can’t run, walk, jump or do any of the required athletic basics to be a professional wrestler. I’m not stupid, or heartless. But he really needs to take some serious time away from the ring to heal up. He could end up crippling himself if he tries anymore horrific somersault dives to the floor like he did here. Or worse – he could wind up dropping an opponent on their head.

Steve Corino vs Jay Lethal
So Lethal may not be able to challenge Steen for the World Title, but that certainly won’t stop him from extracting revenge on SCUM for what they did at Final Battle. After defeating Rhino he was assaulted by Corino and Jacobs – then Gored by the Man Beast to cement his initiation into SCUM.

Corino says Lethal can get out of this match if he apologises to him. When Jay refuses he resorts to cheap ‘your mom’ jokes and is duly socked right in the mouth. Lethal dives into the darkness to hot a tope suicida on the side of the arena which doesn’t have lights. It takes Corino booting the middle rope into Jay’s balls to get him going in the match. Colby Shock follows that, but rather than cover Jay Corino opts to pose to the crowd. He tries a sleeper hold, which is really more of a stall tactic and it ultimately comes to nothing as Jay fights free and lands a series of big strikes to the King Of Old School. Lethal Injection is nicely countered into a Saito suplex for 2…and Corino follows it with a lariat which legit flips Lethal through the air. Eternal Dream gets a nearfall too, only for Jay to hit back with the Lethal Combination. Macho Elbow blocked…superkick into the Lethal Injection! He has it won, but shows the KILLER INSTINCT to hit the Macho Elbow too. He wins at 08:06

Rating – ** – Eh, I’m being pretty generous with that rating. Neither man looked particularly motivated to be out there. Granted they had a hot finishing sequence, but everything that came before that was stalling for time.

Steve Corino berates Nigel as he leaves, showering him with racial slurs and stomps off in a huff. Is he pissed about having to wrestle rather than commentate? He heads to the back, with Nigel in hot pursuit as he promises to ‘deal with the situation’.

Roderick Strong vs Silas Young
Of all the matches on the card this is perhaps the most intriguing – as both competitors are at a real crossroads in their Ring Of Honor careers. Strong is now out of the House Of Truth and scored a big win over Michael Elgin at Final Battle. But he spent most of 2012 well out of the World Title picture, and despite being a Triple Crown holder, isn’t really in strong contention for any championship right now. He needs to start racking up wins as he starts to give his career some direction. On the flipside, Young is still trying to nail down a spot on the roster. He impressed everyone last July with a cracking match against Elgin. But in his few bookings since then has largely struggled to impress. I think he was part of the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament, and has this shot tonight against an ROH veteran. He needs big performances and big wins if he is to cement a contract.

Truth Martini joins commentary, apparently scouting Silas – which follows on from an angle he worked at the most recent TV tapings when he scouted talent at the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament. Surprisingly it’s Young that dominates the early going and has Roderick a little concerned. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before though, and he comes roaring back with a succession of chops before taking Silas into the corner to establish control. Death By Roderick blocked – and Silas knocks Strong out of the ring with a facebuster seconds later. There’s nothing complicated from Young. He’s uncompromisingly aggressive and repeatedly pummels Roddy with punches and stomps – and he looks on a real mission to make an impact this evening. It takes him minutes to even attempt a pinfall, and when he does it’s only after hitting a big fisherman buster. Finlay Roll countered, allowing a weary Roderick to lay in a couple of chops and a big dropkick. Urinage backbreaker gets 2, but Silas is still getting right back up and trading shots with the former World Champion. Strong has to leave his comfort zone – taking to the skies to land a pescado. Despite the success of that move Young recovers to hotshot Strong into the ropes. JUMPING KNEE turns Young’s lights out! He kicks out, but his legs are rubbery and he’s no longer offering a barrage of strikes in defence of whatever Strong throws at him. Great resilience from Silas though, somehow hoisting Strong into a cradle backbreaker for 2. He looks for the Arabian Press only to miss and EAT a Roaring Elbow. DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK! Strong wins at 12:16

Rating – *** – I don’t think the story they went for necessarily hooked the live crowd in particularly, but watching on DVD, where you could appreciate the subtleties of their work, I thought this was a clever little match. Young was a cut above the usual ‘enhancement match’ stock. He fought like a cornered animal – vicious and determined – in an attempt to finally land a permanent ROH spot. He didn’t try anything flashy, or anything likely to be countered. He didn’t let Strong start stringing together a succession of high impact moves. He was disruptive, abrasive and constantly aggressive. Roddy, of course, held up his end of the deal. He started with plenty of cocky smirks – meaning his arrogance put over the skills of Young when they were on display. In the end, the lengths he had to go to in order to win (the pescado, the brutal jumping knee) are what ultimately put Silas over. If Delirious can find a spot for Silas Young he is absolutely talented enough to deliver on the main roster.

Kevin Steen vs Tadarius Thomas – ROH World Title Match
I think the edict that Steen has to defend the belt in all his singles matches still stands. Therefore this, what would normally be a standard ‘special challenge match’ between a promising newcomer like TD and the dominant World Champion now becomes a title match. Of course it’s a huge opportunity for Thomas. Nobody expects him to win, but he’s a worker who everyone agrees has some talent, but one that is still waiting for that signature breakout match to really get him over with the fans. A great performance against Mr Wrestling tonight could be what he needs to springboard up the card.

Steen decapitates the naïve challenger with a big clothesline straight out of the Code Of Honor. Tadarius should have been smarter than that and it leaves him on the back foot literally from the opening bell. He tries to lay some strikes on the champ, only to be violently hurled into the guardrails. He crotches him against the ringpost for good measure and in the opening three minutes has given TD no opportunity at all to use his boxing or capoeira striking. In fact, the champion is now so confident he starts rolling around on the mat before kicking Thomas across the thigh – mocking his capo skills. Hanging DDT out of the ropes nailed after Tadarius does manage to rattle Steen’s jaw with one cartwheel kick. Steen perhaps gets too cocky, clambering up the ropes without having Thomas suitably beaten down. TD gets the knees up to block the Steen-ton and has a significant window of opportunity for the first time. He strings together a flurry of strikes, including an awesome roll-through-the ropes kick to block the cannonball senton. Sling Blade nailed for 2! Tiger Suplex blocked…but so is the F-5! An angry Steen powerbombs Thomas into the ground then argues with Todd Sinclair as TD kicks out again. TIGER SUPLEX FROM TD! Close two for that one, only for a rattled Steen to blast him with the F-5! Thomas kicks out! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! Steen retains at 10:32

Rating – *** – Despite having a few major problems with this, I still found it to be surprisingly entertaining. Nobody thought Thomas had a chance of winning, but I was surprised at how much the live crowd bought into his act. I’ve commented before on some ROH wrestlers struggling to work with Thomas due to his strange style, but Steen actually did a fine job as a base. He ran the match, and allowed TD to express himself and his capo gimmick around that. I do think this match was a little too devoid of Thomas hope spots though. I know ROH have built Steen as a dominant champion, and I love that. But as I said, making him defend the belt in every match is starting to devalue the championship. As a non-title affair this would have been fine, but as a World Title Match I’m looking for a little more than a 10-minute squash. I also don’t see what was gained by Thomas kicking out of the F-5. Steen’s Package Piledriver has been hyped up to such a degree that he should be using it to win his A-list title defences. If guys like Tadarius start kicking out of the F-5 then it goes the same way as Nigel McGuinness’ Tower Of London – i.e. a finishing move that nobody buys as a finish anymore.

Two local guys are set for an opportunity in the popcorn match. They are two of the scrawniest wrestlers I’ve ever seen, and they are rightly interrupted and decimated by Charlie Haas in brief handicap squash. I have absolutely no idea what the hell this was. If you don’t trust him to work a good match then why the hell is Haas being booked at all? His promo is pretty disgraceful too.

Adam Cole vs Jimmy Jacobs
This is under Proving Ground Rules – meaning if Jimmy wins or gets a time limit draw then he earns himself a future TV Title shot. Since his return to ROH we’ve seen precious few Jimmy Jacobs singles matches. Having lost the Tag Titles at the last show will he now look for an opportunity to reignite his own singles aspirations – as I’m sure SCUM would like to control the TV Title alongside Steen’s World Championship.

Corino joins Kevin and Nigel for commentary, having his tail between his legs supposedly after being fined in the back by Nigel. In the ring Jacobs removes any doubts as to his skills by springing off the ropes into a crisp armdrag. He bosses the opening minutes and traps Cole in an early abdominal stretch (with Corino demanding a Thumb In The Bum). Adam struggles to get out of the traps, but does so with a jumping neckbreaker for 2. But still Jacobs is up to the challenge, dropkicking Adam in the mouth as he tries to skin the cat and taking the match to the outside. Back in the ring he gets 2 with a neckbreaker of his own. The fans are noticeably stunned at the aggression and total control displayed by Jacobs thus far in the contest. The champion is almost defenceless as Jacobs rattles off the tornado snap suplex, then a crisp back suplex. Things gets odd as Jimmy starts taunting Cole, then plants a kiss on his lips…which obviously pisses Adam off. He propels himself at Jimmy with a pescado, then re-enters the ring with a Shining Wizard for 2. Figure 4 blocked and then countered with the rebound Ace Crusher from the Zombie Princess. Cole blocks a super rana…then jumps into the air to counter another Ace Crusher attempt with a FLYING LUNGBLOWER FOR 2! End Time COUNTERED with a superkick! CRADLEBREAKER COUNTERED BACK TO END TIME! WITH KNEE STRIKES! Cole keeps trying to escape but Jacobs keeps finding ways to drag him back into End Time. Finally Adam smashes his way free and hits the CRADLEBREAKER! Jimmy climbs into the ropes to evade the Florida Key…CONTRA CODE NAILED ON THE APRON! That takes so much out of both guys that they’re both nearly counted out. Jacobs goes upstairs to land the senton bomb for 2. Another Contra Code is lined up…but Cole catches him to drive him face-first into the turnbuckles! Florida Key countered with a roll-up for a super-close nearfall! SUPERKICK FROM COLE! SPEAR FROM JACOBS! They’re on their knees with exhaustion, but still tear into each other with elbows and headbutts. Adam rocks Jacobs with a jumping enzi. SPEAR COUNTERED WITH A SUPERKICK TO THE FACE! FLORIDA KEY! COLE WINS! It’s all over at 18:19

Rating – **** – What an unexpected delight that was. Both men are popular parts of the ROH roster, but if you’re being super honest we’ve not seen anything of this quality from Jacobs in a long time. It’s not that he’s not a capable wrestler, but he’s always been a guy who excels more in story-driven matches, or big brawls. But he looked SO motivated out there tonight. Literally from the opening bell he worked with such purpose and intensity it almost took the live crowd by surprise. That was the story of the match – Jacobs rolling back the years to deliver a vintage performance, with Cole initially struggling to live with it and eventually having to break out all his big guns to pull out the win. We all know how good Cole is, but honestly he was just a passenger in the Jimmy Jacobs show for this one. They stole the show and absolutely smoked people’s expectations for this. Whether it will lead to SBG trusting Jacobs to become a more prominent part of the roster, with more high profile singles matches, remains to be seen. But he absolutely proved he very much still ‘has it’ this evening.

Rhino vs Michael Elgin
This is a rematch from Survival Of The Fittest last year. At that time both men were still with the House Of Truth, and being honest the fall-out from their involvement in that stable actually overshadowed their match. This evening they reconvene, free from ties to the HOT and ready to do battle for pride. Obviously since we’re in Detroit Rhino is going to be a big favourite. Can Elgin overcome a veteran wrestler and a heated crowd to score a massive victory this evening?

Rhino gets more support for screaming at Kevin Kelly for getting his introduction wrong. The former colleagues are pretty respectful in the early going – shaking hands and offering clean breaks. They jostle for control over a suplex – with Rhino eventually able to take Elgin over. Unbreakable sidesteps the Gore and sends the Man Beast to the floor. They fight up the aisle and into the crowd, literally pushing their way through swarms of fans to keep fighting each other. Rhino blasts Elgin with a garbage can, as the fight spans the entire arena before they emerge from the opposite of the aisle that they left from. They finally return to the ring, and where Rhino had control when they were fighting on the floor Elgin re-establishes himself once it becomes more of a wrestling contest. He climbs the ropes but inevitably misses the corkscrew senton. Rhino capitalises with the belly to belly suplex for 2, but is swept back to the mat in an instant with a Crossface. Such is his desperation to win, Elgin keeps the hold in for a few seconds even after the Man Beast makes the ropes. Dead lift superplex is blocked, with Rhino capitalising with a flurry of punches into a huge superplex of his own. Both men wearily climb to their feet and charge back into battle – trading big punches and elbows. Elgin’s athleticism wins out as he hits a jumping enzi. DEAD LIFT GERMAN ON RHINO! Rhino kicks out, but the whole building is still popping in amazement to that spot. The War Machine hits back with a lariat then crouches in the corner. GOOOOOOORE! FOR 2! Rhino is in disbelief and lines up a second Gore as Elgin crawls to his feet. BACK FIST! CROSSFACE! RHINO TAPS! Elgin wins in 14:54

Rating – *** – An obvious improvement on their SOTF 2012 match. It wasn’t on the same level as the sensational heavyweight battle between Elgin and Kevin Steen, but certainly this felt very unique on a Ring Of Honor card. Of all the WWE vets Sinclair have brought into ROH, Rhino has always been the guy who seems most able (and most willing) to hang with the in-house talent. He’s also been the most willing to put guys over. Making Rhino tap out in his hometown is a MASSIVE feather in the cap of Michael Elgin. With his association with SCUM still to be answered, it’s clear there’s more to come from Rhino too.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs American Wolves – ROH Tag Title Match
After the Wolves’ successful reunion at Final Battle, when they overcame fierce rivals reDRagon, the first thing people wondered was how long it would be before they came after the Tag Titles again. They dominated the division in 2009 (before losing the belts to the Briscoes at Final Battle that year) and they immediately get a shot at regaining their gold. Since their TV match with C&C hasn’t aired yet, this is technically Jay and Mark’s first defence in their 8th ROH Tag Title run.

The crowd seems to be split 50/50 as Davey starts with Mark. Those two are even stevens, and can’t be separated after a couple of minutes of non-stop exchanges. It’s more of the same from Jay and Eddie, and it’s obvious we’re not going to be finished quickly here. The Wolves join forces to isolate Jay, much to Mark’s annoyance. He distracts the referee, giving Eddie a window to pull back and give additional leverage on a Cloverleaf from Richards. It’s only a momentary advantage though, with Mark soon getting a tag and rescuing his brother with a springboard dropkick into Eddie’s chest. The fluidity of the Briscoes start to show, with the champs using quick tags and rapid fire combo moves to beat Edwards down – handing them the advantage for the first time. But Eddie has made a name out of refusing to quit when he should, and he manages to tag out after suplexing Mark ONTO his own brother! Davey storms in and unloads with a flurry of Machine Gun Kicks. Handspring Enzi rattles Jay’s skull and gets 2. Trailer Hitch on Jay…ANKLELOCK ON MARK AT THE SAME TIME! He then feeds Jay to Edwards on the floor who mows him down with a mafia kick against the rails. It’s the Wolves’ turn to beat down an opponent as they cut the ring in half to keep Jay away from his brother. Such is the pattern of this match that neither team is able to dominate for long though – and soon Mark is in again to save with some Redneck Kung Fu.

Richards shuts him down with a missile dropkick with Jay on the outside trying to set up a table and turning his back on what’s going on in the ring. The challengers take it in turns to put Mark in a MutaLock…who responds by getting his boots up to block a diving headbutt. Richards drops him on his neck with a German…only for Mark to shake it off and blast the Wolf with a urinage. The canvas is actually falling apart underneath them as we get tags all round. Jay plants Edwards with a full nelson slam quickly followed by a falcon arrow for 2. Jay Driller blocked, but Eddie pauses to adjust his footing thanks to the torn up canvas and the hesitation leaves his chin open to a rolling elbow. SPRINGBOARD FROGGY BOW gets 2! Doomsday Device attempted, only for Davey to save with a ROPE RUN SUPERPLEX! On the other side of the ring Eddie and Jay start BOOTING EACH OTHER IN THE FACE! All four are in a heap on what’s left of the canvas and it’s anybody’s ball game from here. The Briscoes are up first, but are simultaneously punted off the apron by the Wolves. STEREO ELBOW SUICIDAS NAILED! DOUBLE STOMP COMBO FOR 2! ACHILLES LOCK! Mark tries to save his brother only to be captured in a kneebar by Davey! The Wolves try to set up a Doomsday Device…which Mark Briscoe HATES! He knocks Davey off the apron – and THROUGH a table! DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON EDDIE…FOR 2! The bell rings, but Nigel McGuinness and Todd Sinclair are insistent that it was only a two! JAY DRILLER NAILED! This time it is over at 24:17

Rating – **** – Slightly odd finish, and it’s impossibly to deny that the shredded canvas meant they had to work at a slower pace down the stretch. But, that said, this was still a tag match of real quality. We’ve not seen the Briscoes work too many matches at this level in recent months, so seeing them with nearly 25 minutes to cut-loose with quality talent like Davey and Eddie was a real joy. I’d like to see the Wolves with the tag belts again soon, but I’ll admit that now wasn’t the right time. Ultimately, they’re at the point where a loss doesn’t really hurt their credibility – but a win for the Briscoes gets their 8th reign off to a flying start. I’m not sure this reached the level of the better Wolves/Briscoes matches (From The Ashes and Bluegrass Brawl) – but we’ve seen so little top drawer, main event level Tag Title matches over the last year that this did feel very special.

Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish (in fetching scarves) are in the aisle and smirk at the sight of the Wolves failing in their title challenge.

Tape Rating – ** – This is a pretty harsh rating…and if you can pick this DVD up in a sale (or alternatively head to and catch the VOD) it’s pretty decent value for money. It was definitely a decent enough way to start the year, but my big problem was that outside of the two show-stealers (Cole/Jacobs and Briscoes/Wolves) the rest of the card was decidedly B-show stuff. The start was slow. The Charlie Haas episode was just embarrassing. And too much of the event looked incredibly bush league. The sound was dire. The lighting was so dark it was like they were fighting in a basement. The fact the ring started falling apart during the last two matches wasn’t great either. Ultimately, since Briscoes/Wolves has been done better elsewhere, I don’t think there’s enough value in the TV Title Proving Ground Match to sell this DVD by itself – hence I’ve gone to 2* only. However, this is still streets ahead of some of the really forgettable house shows from last year.

Top 3 Matches
3) Roderick Strong vs Silas Young (***)
2) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs American Wolves (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Jimmy Jacobs (****)

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