ROH Dragon’s Reign 5/11/2013

ROH 324 – Dragon’s Reign – 11th May 2013

I like that Ring Of Honor are really starting to pick their schedule up. Here we have the second show in a run of three consecutive weekends of live shows (plus they taped TV last weekend in Toronto). Tonight’s event actually has some of the most intriguing matches from ROH’s complete May swing. The headline bout, which has been shilled on the TV show and is clearly there to draw the VOD buys, is an 11th Anniversary rematch with reDRagon defending the Tag Titles against the Briscoes. That one obviously has the potential to be a cracking encounter, but it’s further down the card where the real fireworks look like taking place. Michael Elgin meets ACH in a clash of styles which the live reviews raved about. ACH’s tag partner Tadarius Thomas enters the TV Title Proving Ground in a rematch of the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament versus Matt Taven, Jay Lethal meets Jimmy Jacobs in a No DQ grudge match, Tommaso Ciampa wrestles his first ROH match since last summer plus lots more. I’ve not heard too much about this show, but lots of the card has me interested, so lets not waste more time. We return to Belle Vernon, PA and join Kevin Kelly and new colour analyst Steve Corino

QT Marshall/RD Evans vs American Wolves
This is certainly a clash of styles. QT and RD have struggled to gel as a team, with the Barrister’s big mouth and bigger ego seemingly raising the ire of his partner on a number of occasions. Tonight they’ll have to be at the top of their game against one of the top tag teams in ROH history.

Evans needs a rope break for Davey’s Code Of Honor handshake…and immediately demands that QT start the match for their team. Sensibly he tries to use his power to overwhelm Richards…but inevitably is brought to the deck with the kicks and slick mat-wrestling skills of the American Wolf. RD sneaks into the ring to cheap shot Eddie…and his victory lap is awesome. Davey tries to end the lap with a running punt…but gets QT instead! ELBOW SUICIDA from Edwards to RD! He then drives Richards down into a diving headbutt on Marshall for 2. RD Evans tries to reason with Davey, creating just enough of a distraction to allow QT to hit a high angle back suplex for 2. With Richards down, finally Evans accepts a tag – joining his partner to hit a backbreaker/neckbreaker combo. Marshall does a lot of the heavy lifting and they actually string together a halfway effective heat segment on Davey. Eventually Richards rolls into the hot tag…and leaves Evans exposed to some horrific chops from Eddie! Marshall inadvertently chops RD…then Eddie chops BOTH of them! Credit to QT, he powers through both Wolves with a double clothesline…but Evans tries to the same moments later and eats the double Alarm Clock! SUPERKICK GERMAN gets 2! Marshall dumps Richards with an inverted powerslam for 2. Evans tries to come off the top only to eat running mafia kick from Die Hard. Davey delivers a running punt to Marshall’s dick, which somehow isn’t a DQ. DOUBLE DOUBLE STOMP! Marshall kicks out! ANKLELOCK! ACHILLES LOCK ON RD! Marshall taps out, handing the Wolves the victory in 12:52

Rating – *** – Incredibly fun choice to open the show, and much more even than you might expect. This was certainly Marshall’s best ROH performance to date, and the way he held his own trading offence with the Wolves down the stretch there certainly did a lot for his credibility even in defeat. I really like the RD/QT team. I know Marshall isn’t great, but there isn’t a whole lot of comedy in Ring Of Honor, and their misfiring double act makes for great entertainment on undercards.

Tommaso Ciampa vs Vinny Marseglia
We’ve seen Vinny on television before, but he certainly doesn’t get many house show bookings, so this could be a big shot for him. Unfortunately, standing in his way is the return of the Sicilian Psychopath. Ciampa made an unscheduled appearance at Border Wars last week to interrupt an RD Evans monologue, then assault QT Marshall. This evening he returns to in-ring competition, and will look to continue his drive up the card that he’d started last summer with some scintillating matches.

Ciampa’s in only his second appearance since his return, but already his entrance is easily the best in ROH. He wastes no time putting two boots through Marseglia’s face. The crowd are really into Tommaso, making a racket when he’s on offence and booing on the rare occasions Vinny actually lands a strike. Marseglia sensibly blocks Ciampa’s attempts at knee striking…and a botched leapfrog spot puts hearts in mouths as Ciampa comes up clutching his bad leg. CACTUS CLOTHESLINE FROM NOWHERE! Guess his knee is fine! SPEAR THROUGH THE GUARDRAIL! Not content with that, he reverse suplexes Vinny over the rails for a RUNNING exposed knee strike! He then suplexes him back over the rails onto the exposed concrete floor. The remorseless assault continues as he ties Marseglia in the ropes for a running basement dropkick right between the eyes. Sliding somersault neckbreaker gets 2. Incredibly Vinny still won’t quit and finds the strength to kick Ciampa off the apron and into the rails. Tornado DDT nailed and suddenly Marseglia has some momentum. He hits a f*cking terrible tope suicida…then barely connects with a missile dropkick for 2. Ciampa lays in some heavy duty strikes then knees him in the back of the head repeatedly when he misses another ridiculously clumsy move in the corner. AVALANCHE AIR RAID CRASH! Ciampa wins at 11:57

Rating – ** – I’m sort of split on this one. It’s not how I’d have booked it in the slightest, but the live crowd absolutely loved it – so in that respect you have to consider this a success. Ciampa got a good long run to test the knee, and for the most part he looked ok. We got to see lots of hard-hitting offence, and if the reaction of the Pittsburgh fans is echoed at arenas throughout the ROH circuit then officials will be jumping for joy as Tommaso can easily be elevated to the top of the card with that kind of fan support. But, on the flip side, I’m not sure this needed to go 12 minutes, and I’m absolutely sure we didn’t need to see Marseglia get in as much offence. I like his look, but he is just such a clumsy and awkward wrestler. He looks like an old man when he runs. When he jumps he barely gets off the canvas, and everything he does looks so unnatural and uncoordinated. I didn’t want to see Ciampa having to sell for his terrible offence, and I certainly didn’t want to see Tommaso injured by Vinny’s downright dangerously awful tope.

The House Of Truth get some promo time…and even Taven gets a chance to speak. Admittedly he doesn’t do a great job, but it’s an improvement on standing in the background like a goof. Scarlett continues to be extremely hot and oddly lovable in her Hoopla Hottie role.

Matt Taven vs Tadarius Thomas
This is a rematch of the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament final, contested under Proving Ground rules, meaning that if TD can last the time limit or win then he’ll earn a future TV Title opportunity. Matt won the tournament in controversial circumstances. Martini appeared to be trying to help Tadarius (whom he’d picked to win from the outset), but Thomas declined the help – only to see Taven seize the opportunity instead. Matt went on to defeat Adam Cole (again controversially) for the TV Title at the following ippv, and enjoyed the spoils of his increased stature. Can Tadarius even the score tonight?

Martini cuts a pre-match promo, and in a colossal shock it’s actually geared around getting some heat on Taven. The champ himself starts hesitantly, clearly looking to avoid the bewitching strikes and fluid movements of his opponent. On the deck Matt shows himself to be a proficient grappler, but he can’t keep Tadarius down and soon has to absorb a sliding kick to the back of the neck. TD cartwheels into another kick attempt…then lands a jumping enzi as Taven ducks his head trying to evade it. Quebrada missed by Taven, then he is hammered with a capoeira kick to the sternum as he continually fails to even get close to TD. Thomas SOMERSAULTS out of the Headlock Driver and drops the champion with an exploder suplex for 2. Next Tadarius cartwheels over Truth Martini’s attempts to trip him on the apron…but it blindsides him for long enough to allow Taven to land a springboard dropkick. Matt starts working the back and drills the spine into the side of the ring repeatedly. Brainbuster nailed upon his return to the ring…but he misses the springboard corkscrew senton. Scarlett comes to the rescue by grabbing at Tadarius, who turned his head away and walked into a spinning heel kick. He tries throwing kicks in response, but is now weary from the beating Taven has dished out, and once again eats a kick across his jaw. As if that wasn’t enough Martini is making things worse by choking poor TD in the ropes. ‘I love young girls’ – Corino. Truth blatantly trips Thomas in clear view of the referee, and to the delight of the crowd he is ejected from ringside. For the first time in months Matt has been left to fight for himself! Tadarius kicks lumps out of him in the corner, then explodes with a crazy TWISTING SLING BLADE for 2! HALF NELSON SUPLEX…2 AGAIN! But he takes too long climbing up the ropes and is dragged down with a slingshot swinging neckbreaker from the champ. FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH GETS KNEES! Thomas tries to hook Taven up for a dragon suplex, only to see it countered to the Headlock Driver! Taven wins a hard-fought contest at 13:07

Rating – *** – Taven’s best match since he won the belt, and after another disappointing showing at Border Wars this may well have been the match that saves his championship reign. His wrestling was fluent, focused and error-free – and most importantly, was getting a rise out of the crowd thanks to Martini’s pre-match stuff actually being focused on his TV Champion. Thomas continues to improve as a performer too, and deserves tons of credit for tossing himself around the ring to make Matt look good. Crucially, unlike a lot of Taven’s previous matches this year, they actually kept the ‘Hoopla’ to a minimum to let him wrestle – and much as I’ve been saying for some time, when it comes to wrestling he’s actually a terrific prospect that Ring Of Honor did well to land.

ACH vs Michael Elgin
There’s nothing on the line for either man, but this should still be a hell of a spectacle. Elgin is #1 contender to the World Title, but has committed to ridding ROH of SCUM before cashing. ACH, meanwhile, is rebounding from his disappointing TV Title loss to Matt Taven on SBG a few weeks ago. Will it be Elgin establishing his credentials as a World Champion elect with a dominant victory over the exciting newcomer, or will ACH smash through the glass ceiling and establish himself as a top line singles star in Ring Of Honor?

Elgin tries to intimidate his opponent from the outset, refusing to release the pre-match handshake, then instantly backing him into the corner to stare him down again. A dismissive clean break further riles ACH up…but all he does is try and ill-advised shoulder block and finds himself splatted on the mat. Amusingly, ACH tries an armdrag, but he is literally dragged back to his feet by Unbreakable. Flying headscissors is caught…then Elgin refuses to budge with a victory roll. A stepping kick to the face finally drops the big man for the first time, but it’s clear that ACH has his work cut out just keeping him off his feet. He tries a body slam, but no dice. Same story with a vertical suplex, so tries to trip Elgin out of the ring instead. ARABIAN PRESS TO THE FLOOR…MISSES! Yet ACH lands on his feet anyway, and hits a HEADSTAND REBOUND HEADSCISSORS OFF THE APRON! Tope suicida comes next…ELGIN CATCHES HIM FOR A BELLY TO BELLY ON THE FLOOR! Unrepentant, Elgin follows that by booting ACH into the crowd. Somehow he makes it back into the ring before being counted out, but only into a barrage of stomps from the #1 contender. Easy stalling vertical suplex comes next, with ACH going limp in Elgin’s grasp before he is finally driven into the canvas. ACH decides he’s had enough of being suplexed and simply blocks it by clinging to Michael’s leg like a parasite. He dropkicks Elgin into the ropes, then slides through into a jumping enzi from the floor. Axe kick in the ropes nailed Jerry Lynn style…and momentum is starting to shift into ACH’s favour. ALLEY OOP CORKSCREW PLANCHA NAILED! The crowd are going nuts for this match, and pop again as ACH counters a body slam attempt with Last Rites for 2! He lands on his feet as Elgin tries a German…but his luck runs out and Unbreakable drops him with the Black Hole Slam. Dead-lift German countered so Elgin scoops him up for a running DVD into the buckles instead. He tries to decapitate ACH with a lariat…then BOOTS HIM ACROSS THE RING! And somehow ACH pops up out of that into an Ace Crusher! He tries a sunset flip bomb out of the corner, and flaps around like a fish out of water when he fails to move Elgin in the slightest. MID-AIR DROPKICK BY ELGIN to counter a slingshot from ACH! DEAD-LIFT AVALANCE FALCON ARROW…FOR 2! Michael is in disbelief that it’s not over and actually gives ACH a chance to recover. ST-JOE BY ELGIN! He misses the corkscrew senton (standard)…GHANA-REA by ACH! 450 Splash misses…and ACH tumbles into Elgin’s spinning back fist! SPIRAL BOMB COUNTERED WITH A REVERSE RANA! 450 SPLASH NAILED! ELGIN KICKS OUT! It’s ACH’s turn to be shocked that somehow he hasn’t won. He looks for the Cradle DDT but Unbreakable slips out of his grasp. DEATH BLOW BY ELGIN! NECK DROP GERMAN! BACK FIST! BUCKLE BOMB! SPIRAL BOMB! Elgin wins at 20:01

Rating – **** – Wow! Elgin is having a tremendous year so his performance isn’t necessarily a shock, but ACH just stepped up in a major way. There’s a difference between being a popular newcomer who does lots of dives to pop a crowd, to being given twenty minutes with one of the promotion’s main event guys and expected to deliver a show stopper. Consider this show stolen, and a massive well done to both athletes for this one. If I’m being mega-critical, I’m disappointed they abandoned the clever cat-and-mouse thing they were doing in the first six or seven minutes, with ACH not even able to lift Elgin for a basic slam or hurt him with a single chop (hell, later in the match he was suplexing and slamming him for fun)…but the way they went spot for spot at the end was totally captivating. I also enjoyed the entertaining, if slightly random appearance of retro ROH moves – Samoa Joe’s ST-Joe slam, Jimmy Rave’s Ghana-rea then Chris Hero’s Death Blow. I’m sure they were unintentional, but it added an additional layer of enjoyment to it for me. This was worth getting the VOD for even if you’re on the fence about whether you want the DVD.

Steve Corino calls that a MOTYC, whilst Kevin Kelly (who, to be fair to him, has years of experience in this industry) is absolutely purring at ACH’s ability to step up and deliver in such a high profile match. Both men get a standing ovation as the lights come up for intermission.

The popcorn match is between local talents Dalton Castle (the ‘Party Peacock’) and Jimmy Nuts (who’s graphic introduces him as ‘Dalton Castle’ too…and hecomes out wearing Dudley Boyz glasses for no apparent reason). They wrestle aimlessly for a few minutes before Rhett Titus runs in – laying them both out and causing a predictable no contest. Enter Mr Wrestling…

Rhett Titus vs Kevin Steen
At the TV tapings in New York we saw the aftermath of Kevin Steen’s ROH Title loss to Jay Briscoe. Steve Corino wanted to refocus SCUM around Matt Hardy, effectively forcing Steen out of SCUM for disagreeing with that plan. SCUM assaulted Mr Wrestling (although not before he fired the first shot and landed some punches on Hardy)…now alone seemingly without any allies, Steen is an enigmatic and lonesome figure on the ROH landscape as he fights for revenge against his former team-mates.

Corino calls Titus the ‘SCUM-dog Millionaire’, which I love! After laying out the local guys he comes face to face with Mr Wrestling who battles through a barrage of streamers to get to Rhettski. Steen hits the cannonball senton against the rails but gets distracted by Corino who screams abuse at him from the announce position. Titus is unable to capitalise and is taken on a tour of ringside, getting crotched against a ringpost at every turn. Just when all looks lost Rhett manages to block the Package Piledriver and spear his opponent into the guardrails. Sensibly the SCUM-dog hauls the former World Champion back into the ring where his destructive capabilities are reduced somewhat. Inside the ring Steen misses another cannonball and has his head booted against the post. He kicks at Titus’ bad leg, but again gets distracted by Corino and this time Rhett is able to take advantage of it. Steen falls out of the ring, and instantly that’s back in an environment where he Titus simply can’t touch him. F-5 ON THE APRON! STEEN-TON BOMB! Titus kicks out, and the damage he’s inflicted to Steen throughout the match is slowing him down too. Rhett is up first, hitting the Thrust Buster for 2. He lands a frog splash across the back (which he’s worked on through the match) and gets another nearfall. Rhett-ribution DDT countered with a powerbomb. Package Piledriver countered…F-5 blocked! Rhett low blows Steen out of the ref’s line of sight and nearly steals a cheap win right there. Steen returns the favour with another unseen low blow. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! Steen wins at 13:46

Rating – *** – Nothing to write home about, but this was a solid match in the early skirmishes of Steen’s war against SCUM, and one of Rhett’s best showings in months. On commentary both Kelly and Corino pointed out that he looked to be in much better shape, and I’d echo that sentiment. He looked smaller round the midsection, a little lighter on his feet and certainly didn’t spend the majority of the match hobbling round as he usually does. It helps, of course, that Steen remains ROH’s hottest act. The fans loved him tonight, and all the drama of the match came from the lively crowd desperately routing for a Mr Wrestling victory.

Rhett refuses to get out of the ring…so Steen gives him another Package Piledriver for good measure. AND A THIRD! Titus has been massacred, leaving SCUM’s leader completely speechless!

Roderick Strong vs BJ Whitmer vs Adam Cole
Ring Of Honor don’t book too many triple threats these days, and this one is a particularly interesting one. It pits two ROH veterans (Strong and Whitmer) against the man many have pegged as a future World Champion in the youngster Adam Cole. Roddy and Adam had a series of violent matches in 2012 as Cole looked to make a name for himself outside of Future Shock…and both his opponents tonight are men Adam actually beat during his TV Title reign.

A three-way lock-up gets us started, and it goes all around the ring before all three offer a clean break. Next all three look for quick pinfalls, but of course with a third man in the ring there’s next to no chance of it happening this early. Whitmer powerslams Roddy and looks to start building momentum. He hits the exploder on Strong too, dropping him on top of Cole in the process. An elbow suicida lands next…but he has turned his back on Adam who seizes the initiative with a tope suicida of his own! Flying Crossbody COUNTERED in mid-air with a dropkick by Roderick. Olympic Slam gets 2 for Strong, before he turns into the rolling fisherman neckbreakers from BJ. Cole has recovered too, rocking BJ with a Shining Wizard for 2. TORTURE RACK BACKBREAKER from Strong to Cole! He gets up and walks blindly into another exploder from Whitmer…and all three are down! Cole drops BJ on his bad neck with a cradlebreaker…then EATS the Black Superkick from Strong. Roderick hits a superplex on Whitmer, but before he can get back up Adam swoops and nearly steals his pinfall. It comes down to the two former TV Champions…with Strong nailing Death By Roderick! BJ blocks the Sick Kick! SUPERKICK FROM COLE! WRIST CLUTCH EXPLODER BY BJ! In a huge victory for him, Whitmer defeats Adam Cole at 09:46

Rating – *** – I’d heard nothing about this one going in, and it actually turned out to be my favourite triple threat match for some time. They kept it short, and ensured it was all action from the get go. There weren’t many elongated ‘one guy lies around whilst two guys fight’ sequences, with all three constantly breaking each others pins, interrupting each others spots and creating a chaotic, but mostly enjoyable sprint for victory. Personally I think it’s a big call putting Whitmer over Cole though. I know BJ has a title shot next week and needs to look good, but Roddy is basically only in the company to put other people over now (I mean that in a good way by the way – I love Roddy), so I don’t see why Adam needed to lose back to back matches to accommodate him, even for the sake of a ‘slow burn heel turn’.

In a pre-match promo Lethal says he asked for this to be No DQ since every match with SCUM is a ‘Fight Without Honor’ anyway. Meanwhile Kevin Steen is interviewed during Jacobs’ entrance, and vows that he’s not done with SCUM for the evening…

Jay Lethal vs Jimmy Jacobs – No DQ Match
We know Lethal has been one of the guys leading from the front as ROH looks to rid themselves of SCUM. Last week he teamed up with Michael Elgin in a tag match, but injured his knee and had to pull out. SCUM would end up winning that match, giving Matt Hardy a World Title shot and giving Steve Corino the colour commentary job…so Jay will be looking to make amends for that tonight.

The fight goes straight to the outside, with first Lethal landing a series of mounted punches to Jacobs, before the SCUM leader strikes back by drilling him against an open chair. The first serious strike is landed by Lethal, who catapults Jimmy into the ringpost. Jacobs tries an axehandle off the apron, but succeeds only in launching himself straight into a superkick. The brawl spills to the locker room…and when they return to the ring Jay has armed himself with a chair. Raven drop toehold from Lethal, scoring the first nearfall of the match. It’s going well for Lethal, but he has to pause to tend to the knee injury he sustained at Border Wars, missing half a step and enabling Jacobs to land a steel chair shot to the back. Another chair shot follows, before Jacobs delivers a chair guillotine (the kind short-haired biker Undertaker dished out circa 2002) for 2-count. And after ten minutes of wrestling, for the first time Jimmy attacks Lethal’s knee – dropkicking it out from under him in violent fashion. The railroad spike comes out of the boot as we’ve seen so many times before…but he succeeds only in stabbing the turnbuckle before Jay gets a second wind and launches him head-first into a propped up chair. Defying the pain coming from his back and knee, Jay hits a handspring elbow as his comeback continues. He tosses a garbage can into the ring…feeding it to Jacobs only to superkick him in the face, CATCH THE TRASH CAN, then waffle him with it before he hits the deck! He tree of woes Jimmy inside the can then drills it into his face with a sliding dropkick. They go to the outside, where Jacobs hits a REBOUND CUTTER OFF THE RAILS! He props Lethal up over the trash can, but MISSES the senton bomb and crashes through it himself! Again they drag themselves back to their feet, Lethal armed with a chair whilst Jacobs pulls the spike out of the buckle. Jimmy stabs the chair, causing Jay to drop it…LETHAL COMBINATION ON THE CHAIR! With Jacobs incapacitated, Jay fishes around under the ring then drags a table back inside. He sets it up in the corner, and has Jimmy teetering on the brink after a superkick. Steve Corino leaves commentary and cheap shots Lethal…STEEN IS BACK! Jacobs saves Corino from the Package Piledriver…and Lethal accidentally takes out Steen with a superkick. JACOBS SPEARS LETHAL THROUGH THE TABLE! He wins at 21:48

Rating – *** – Here’s the problem with ROH’s current philosophy on blood, head shots and the more extreme grudge match/hardcore genre. Noble as it is, by outlawing blood, head shots and generally toning down the product (even grudge matches like this) to a much more PG-friendly level, you’re really limiting the kinds of stories these performers can tell in matches like this. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing – but it takes a while for fan expectations to adjust to this new style, and to be honest this one suffered from it. There was some strong brawling, and both of these two really brought some fun sequences to the party. Ultimately this was a pretty solid match, although it never really clicked into the higher gears or emotionally resonated with the crowd (until Steen arrived). It probably could have had a few minutes shaved from its run-time too.

Kevin Steen and Jay Lethal stare angrily each other as Jacobs and Corino leave victoriously through the crowd. Once again it’s clear that Mr Wrestling has no friends in ROH right now…

reDRagon vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe – ROH Tag Title Match
This is a rematch from the 11th Anniversary Show. That night Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish produced a superb tag team wrestling display and ended the Briscoes eighth Tag Title reign. Obviously Jay and Mark have wanted a rematch, but this now takes on added significance as it features new ROH World Champion Jay Briscoe. If Kyle or Bobby can pin Jay, then Ring Of Honor history (and since he’s been here since ‘Day One’ you’d expect him to honour that) suggests the champion will offer them a championship match in the future.

BJ Whitmer replaces Corino on commentary as he scouts Jay Briscoe ahead of next week’s match. O’Reilly begins the match with Mark, going back and forth on the canvas trading holds and counters. Tags all round, and Jay finds it much more difficult against Fish. He changes his approach, straight up punching Bobby’s lights out to give the challengers the advantage for the first time. They start unleashing trademark combo moves, cutting the ring in half and clearly highlighting the gulf in tag team experience between the duos here. Mark threatens some Redneck Kung Fu, but just as in the first match Bobby evades it, sliding out of the ring then booting his legs from under him as O’Reilly makes the distraction. reDRagon lay in knee strikes on Mark, then get 2 with a backbreaker/flying knee drop combo. Sensibly Mark tags the World Champion in, and he has all the momentum in the world as he dishes out kicks and clotheslines all over the place. DVD/CORKSCREW SPLASH COMBO FOR 2! O’Reilly makes his presence felt from the apron again, sneaking in to illegally boot Jay in the head. Instantly reDRagon go to work on Jay’s injured shoulder – taking him to the mat and unleashing an assortment of stretches on that limb…along with a diving headbutt right on it by Fish. He hits a hammerlock back suplex next and the champions start sniffing a successful title defence, and potentially earning a future World Title shot as they keep Jay well away from a tag to his brother. Jay is clearly fighting on one arm now, as the offending limb hangs limp by his side. Just as he looks set to get a tag, Kyle AGAIN pops up from the outside, this time to sweep Mark off the apron. Repeated kicks to the chest and shoulder from the champs gets a 2-count. Butterfly suplex from O’Reilly, straight into the cross armbreaker! As Jay tries to escape Kyle effortlessly switches it to a triangle choke! ONE-ARMED SPINEBUSTER ON FISH! At last Jay gets the hot tag, and Mark arrives with Redneck Kung Fu strikes to O’Reilly (still not Bobby). Kyle stops Mark climbing to the top, as Fish locks in the CROSS ARMBREAKER on Jay for a second time. MARK SAVES WITH THE FROGGY BOW! BACK DROP DRIVER BY KYLE! He snaps Jay’s arm in the ropes…THEN HITS THE MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON! In the ring it’s a strike battle as Fish lands kicks, only to be met with Mark FINALLY tagging him with Redneck Kung Fu strikes for the first time. O’Reilly, for the zillionth time, strikes from the apron – this time blasting Mark from behind with one of the title belts. He staggers forward into a KNOCK-OUT KICK from Fish! reDRagon retain at 18:53

Rating – **** – I enjoy matches that are smartly and logically wrestled, and matches that tell fun and subtle little stories. This one ticked both boxes, so I really loved this and feel it’s been massively underrated by some reviewers that I’ve seen. The way they worked this one made perfect sense. The Briscoes, the legends of ROH tag team wrestling, are always the favourites regardless of whether they hold the belts or not. Despite being the champs, reDRagon are a first-year team…so the match starting out with the Briscoes using lots of old school Briscoe double team moves and dominating the match made sense. Fish and O’Reilly turned the tables by attacking Jay’s shoulder injury, and finally had to resort to cheating when even that wasn’t enough to secure the victory against the multi-time former champions. There was also a clever little pay-off to the sub-plot between Mark and Fish which started back at the 11th Anniversary. Fish, with his legit MMA background, has thus far seemed impervious to Mark’s notorious ‘Redneck Kung Fu’ skills. He couldn’t land a single shot on him in the first match. Tonight, the belt shot from O’Reilly came just as Mark’s Redneck Kung Fu was at last getting the better of Bobby for the first time. Was that planned, or was that just wonderful coincidence? This wasn’t as good as Elgin/ACH, and it wasn’t an explosive, all-action, smash-mouth spotfest. But, it was a very smart little match, a fitting main event and another outstanding defence in the increasingly awesome title reign of reDRagon.

Fish and O’Reilly think they are heading for a clean getaway…until they are ambushed in the aisle by the American Wolves. BJ Whitmer gets into the ring too, and all of a sudden everyone is fighting! Whitmer and Jay brawl ahead of next week’s World Title showdown, whilst the bad blood between the Wolves and reDRagon is clearly far from over. Security breaks things up…as Kelly points out that all Jay’s scheduled title defences (BJ, Davey & Eddie) are in the ring with him as the show closes…

Tape Rating – *** – This has to be one of the most pleasantly surprising shows of 2013. Not that the card was bad, but considering this was a B-level house show the weekend after a PPV/TV taping double shot, you could be forgiven for thinking ROH wouldn’t be bringing their best to Pittsburgh. But actually this was one of the most solid cards all year. Every match got time, and there wasn’t a lot of bad wrestling on the card at all. Even Ciampa/Marseglia, the worst match of the night, had a number of genuine positives – most notably Tommaso’s return and strong showing. But a solid card becomes an under-whelming show if there’s no top quality show-stealers…and thankfully Dragon’s Reign has that in Elgin/ACH. It was a spectacular bout which rightly got some MOTYC hype, and is one you definitely need to go out of your way to see. That said, I also liked the main event a lot more than most did. One of the best house shows of the year in my opinion…

Top 3 Matches
3) Jimmy Jacobs vs Jay Lethal (***)
2) reDRagon vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe (****)
1) Michael Elgin vs ACH (****)

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