ROH 325 – Relentless – 18th May 2013
ROH’s picked up house show circuit continues here with another one of those ‘this could suck, or could be a sleeper smash hit’ looking cards. Certainly it’s very much B-show stuff, but there are a few matches which could really surprise a few people if given the right environment to flourish. The main event does see the Ring Of Honor World Championship defended, with BJ Whitmer getting the chance to face Jay Briscoe. Further down the card Kevin Steen meets Jimmy Jacobs in a rematch from the 10th Anniversary Show, Tag champions reDRagon team with TV champ Matt Taven in trios action, whilst the American Wolves get their hands on SCUM for the first time too. Joe Dumbrowski (been a while since he’s popped up – but he’ll surely be better than Bill Burger) and Steve Corino call the action from Richmond, VA.
Michael Elgin vs Kyle Matthews
ROH frequently use Elgin to get the crowd rocking at these live events. Tonight he’s in action against the promising up and comer Kyle Matthews. I’m interested to see what this guy brings to the table as I’ve seen nothing of him, yet his name frequently pops up when discussing talent ROH should be looking to recruit.
Elgin looks to be all business, not taking his eyes off his opponent and easily tossing him across the ring in the early going. Kyle tries an armdrag, but his jaw drops open in dismay as Michael simply stands there and scoops him back up. He springs out of the corner with a rolling headscissors, using additional leverage to finally get Unbreakable off his feet. No matter, Elgin retorts by picking him up for a BELLY TO BELLY OVER THE ROPES TO THE FLOOR! A body slam on the floor follows next, the sound echoing through the arena. Even when Matthews crawls back into the ring it gets no matter, as Elgin scoops him up for a ONE MINUTE LONG STALLING SUPLEX! Amazingly Kyle gets back to his feet and clips Elgin with a jawbreaker. He trips Michael to the floor and slams into him with a Heat Seeking Missile! SLIDING DDT gets 2! That’s about it for Matthews’ offensive streak though, as he tries one move too many and sprints into the ST-Joe. Corkscrew senton misses for Elgin, and Kyle pounces for a satellite octopus stretch. BUTT SPLASH from Elgin to counter! Kyle barely has time to roll over before he is caught in ROLLING DEAD-LIFT GERMANS! All the momentum is with Elgin now and he runs through punches and kicks from Matthews to decimate him with the Black Hole Slam. Matthews absorbs a volley of lariats, yet still finds a way to hit a flatliner! Elgin DEATH BLOWS him for that! Buckle Bomb…MATTHEWS JACK-KNIFE PINS ELGIN…FOR 2! BACK FIST KILLS HIM DEAD! Spiral Bomb puts Matthews away at 11:33
Rating – *** – I don’t want to put any undue pressure on the guy, as he’s certainly not on that level quite yet, but Michael Elgin is really starting to resemble Samoa Joe in an ROH ring. This was an enhancement match, yet he made it supremely fun to watch – entertaining the crowd with his killer power moves yet still retaining enough credibility in Kyle’s performance that the newcomer actually goes away looking good too. Murdering opponents, yet somehow making them look BETTER for it was a skill Joe had (maybe he still has, I don’t watch much TNA) down to a tee. Certainly Matthews looked compact and precise in the ring, and won’t have done his chances of future bookings any harm with this.
Adam Cole vs Adam Page
This should be an exciting bout between two extremely talented young men. Lots of people are touting Cole as a future World Champion, but he’s having to rebound from a tough few weeks after he failed to take the World Title from Jay Briscoe at Border Wars (Nigel McGuinness has something to answer for there) and last week lost again, this time to BJ Whitmer in a triple threat which also featured his old nemesis Roderick Strong. He’ll want to produce a commanding performance against Page, who for his part, is still looking for that one breakout, must-see match that earns him a full-time roster spot.
In many ways these two are mirror images of each other – perfectly demonstrated as they trade armdrags and dropkicks effortlessly. Cole seizes the initiative with a springboard dropkick to the apron, then a TOPE SUICIDA INTO THE RAILS! From there the former TV Champion dominates, targeting Page’s neck with a DVD over the knee for 2. Page shows his resilience by firing back with elbow strikes then a powerslam. Corino and Dumbrowski are absolutely hysterical on commentary during this – with Joe feigning fear of Steve, referencing what he did to Caleb Seltzer at Supercard Of Honor. Steve, in response, starts mocking Jay Briscoe for all the trouble he got into over his controversial tweets on same-sex marriage rights. In the ring Cole levels Page with the Shining Wizard. Jumping neckbreaker gets another nearfall. Page one-ups that, with a SPRINGBOARD SWINGING NECKBREAKER FROM THE SECOND ROPE! He also has Cole’s jumping enzi from the floor scouted, and simply evades it before wiping him out with a STANDING SSP OFF THE APRON! Page tries a crossbody…BUT COLE SUPERKICKS HIM IN THE FACE ON THE WAY DOWN! Cradlebreaker drops him down onto that neck again. Cole looks furious that Page won’t stay down, and refuses to succumb to the Florida Key. Superkick to the neck, into the FLORIDA KEY! Finally Page is put down, given Cole a much-needed win at 09:54
Rating – *** – Another terrific little contest between a true rising star of ROH and a promising talent looking to earn a spot. The crowd loved the athleticism and excitement of this (understandably so), but for me the real beauty of the match was in Cole’s performance. The subtle heelish facial expressions, the aggression he displayed when attacking the neck, and they ‘stay down punk’ attitude he displayed when absolutely destroying Page at the end. The slow burn on his turn is going to be interesting to watch as we move into the second half of 2013.
Cole walks out without shaking Page’s hand, much to the delight of his ‘friend’ Steve Corino…
Roderick Strong vs Mark Briscoe
We badly need some career direction for these two Ring Of Honor veterans. Mark is currently in a tough position, with his brother as World Champion limiting the amount of tag matches they can have. He’ll be looking to deliver a few exceptional singles performances – something that his ROH career to date can be accused of lacking. Roddy, meanwhile, is frozen out of the World Title picture at present, with Nigel McGuinness making it known he won’t get more opportunities without stringing a series of wins and strong performances together.
Over the years these two have wrestled each other a lot, so it’s understandable the initial pace is slow. They work the mat, probing for weaknesses and working sensibly to avoid costly early errors. Strong makes a statement by ripping out a chunk of Briscoe’s beard. He works headlocks which keep Mark down and negate his speed and ‘martial arts’ prowess. Briscoe manages to trip Roddy out of the ring, springing into life to instantly dropkick him through the ropes! A brawl around ringside also favours Briscoe…so Strong wisely brings it back to the ring where he springs up to put a boot through Mark’s face. He stomps him down into the turnbuckles, wearing him out with his heavy-handed strikes. Bear hug applied, then a stretch plum with elbow strikes – focusing on the midsection for the first time. Death By Roderick blocked…and for the first time Mark manages to land some Redneck Kung Fu strikes. Barn dancing boots to the face get a 2 for Mark. Olympic Slam from Strong, dropping him south onto that back again. He makes the mistake of trying to come off the top rope, and is caught with an Iconoclasm. Cut-Throat Driver blocked though, with Strong blasting Briscoe with an elbow…only for Mark to SHOTGUN DROPKICK him into the turnbuckles! Urinage attempted, but it’s another signature move of these two which is blocked. Strong finally lands the Death By Roderick and gets 2. Gibson Driver…countered with a rolling fireman’s carry. Froggy Bow blocked too! Strong chases Briscoe up the ropes to land a colossal superplex. Orange Crush Backbreaker…countered with a backslide. They start countering back and forth into pinning combinations…MARK PINS STRONG! Huge victory for Briscoe as he gears up for a run at his brother’s World Title – in a time of 16:07
Rating – *** – Obviously this wasn’t the most exciting of contests, but they were given a decent time allocation and they made the most of it to tell an interesting story. Initially it was the age old cat and mouse game of power vs speed. Both men can do that well, but what I liked was that they took that basic premise and expanded a number of additional themes into it. Mark, it turns out, was a better brawler than Roddy when they worked the floor. Strong countered with his go-to tactic of working the back. And throughout everything, they kept a constant flow of countered signature moves. These two have been in the same company for a decade. They obviously know what spots the other person does in each match. Aside from Death By Roderick, I can’t remember a single ‘signature’ spot from either man’s repertoire that actually connected in this. That didn’t always make it the most spectacular match, but for a midcard bout this had a lot to like.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Chris Larusso
The Sicilian Psychopath made his return at Border Wars 2013, and last week competed in his first ROH match for several months (which was a surprisingly hard-fought battle with Vinny Marseglia). He continues his return this evening with another apparently low key contest against an enhancement talent looking to make a name for himself and earn some more bookings with Ring Of Honor.
No mercy from Ciampa, and unlike with Marseglia last week, he wastes no time and completely brains Larusso with a lariat. He continues beating on him New Jack style, with his music still blaring and lights still flashing. Bare Knee strikes knock Chris’ lights out, and it’s over at 01:49
Rating – N/A – This is how I would have booked the Ciampa/Marseglia match too if I’m honest. It seems like ROH fans are ready to buy into the Ciampa character, so they can’t have him spending 10-12 minutes struggling to put away local talents like this. Watching him decimate kids like this is way more fun. I wonder how far away his knee is from being able to execute his Project Ciampa finisher – since that, along with his awesome new entrance, really make him one of the coolest ‘package deals’ ROH have going for them at the moment.
Rhett Titus/Cliff Compton vs American Wolves
This is the first time SCUM (the current line-up anyway) has crossed paths with the Wolves. Of course Titus and Compton want to make a statement by defeating two former World Champions, but this will be a stern test of just how dangerous and just how capable these two are as a unit. Davey and Eddie, for their part, have called themselves the definition of ROH wrestling, and want to take SCUM down tonight on the way to earning another championship opportunity against rivals reDRagon.
Edwards and Richards fly into stereo elbow suicidas in the opening five seconds. They quickly isolate Titus, with Davey kicking Compton off the apron then diving into a missile dropkick on the ‘SCUMdog Millionaire’. Corino cheers his men on, threatening to punch Davey in the face as Cliff starts choking him in the ropes right in front of the announce position. He’s less thrilled when Richards dishes out machine gun kicks in the corner to both SCUM members. Rhett and Titus put a stop to that with some of the least convincing and appallingly executed double teams you’ll ever see. Titus tries to make it a wrestling match, focusing on Richards’ ribs and leaving him in real pain on the deck. According to Corino they’ve been training at the ‘SCUM Dojo’. Compton works a surfboard, but ducks his head and is dropkicked into an inadvertent DDT on his own partner! Eddie gets the hot tag and makes a beeline for Rhettski, chopping lumps out of his chest. Fisherman buster puts the former ANX member for 2. Titus blocks the Backpack Stunner but eats the double Alarm Clock, then staggers into the SUPERKICK GERMAN! Cliff has to break the fall there. Richards misses a top rope double stomp, but COUNTERS Rhett’s chokeslam into a victory roll for 2. Handspring Enzi countered with the Titus Dropkick – THEN the chokeslam for 2! Superplex/Superfly Splash combo gets SCUM another nearfall! Eddie saves with the Boston Knee Party…as Davey lays out Titus with the running apron punt! DOUBLE DOUBLE STOMP! Compton kicks out! ANKLELOCK! Rhett tries to save his partner but Davey shakes off his kicks like they aren’t there. ACHILLES LOCK ON TITUS! Rhett and Cliff tap out simultaneously, handing the Wolves another big win at 13:46
Rating – *** – Good match, but a total carry job because Titus and Compton were absolutely awful. I praised Rhett last week at Dragon’s Reign as his match with Kevin Steen was comfortably his best performance in sometime, but he was back to his absolute worst here. Sloppy, badly executed spots, clumsy selling, poor ring positioning. The guy just looked clueless out there, and considering how experienced he is, Cliff Compton wasn’t doing much better. It was only the dynamism, intensity and popularity of Davey and Eddie that got them through some really rough bits. Admittedly it picked up down the stretch, but this was two of ROH’s best workers in the ring with two of their most limited – and it showed.
After intermission Steve Corino enters the ring to formally announce that Matt Hardy will challenge for the World Championship at the June 23rd television tapings in Baltimore. He also requests Nigel McGuinness accept his challenge to a 8-man showdown with all the cards on the table – winner takes all, losers disband. Meaning on the 23rd either SCUM dies, or Corino becomes the ‘Match Maker’ and Ring Of Honor dies…
Kyle O’Reilly/Bobby Fish/Matt Taven vs Jay Lethal/Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander
This trios tag puts the Tag Champions and TV Champion together to face some of their top contenders. The C&C WrestleFactory have scored some big wins lately and are hot on the heels of reDRagon, whilst Lethal has called himself a ‘criminal returning to the scene of the crime’ as he looks to end the Hoopla and take the Television Championship out of the House Of Truth’s control once again.
‘I feel like we’re the Beastie Boys taking on Run DMC’ – Bobby Fish on the racial diversity in this one. It’s a bad start for the ‘Beasties’ though, as Lethal ducks and sidesteps all his opponents, causing them to accidentally tee off on their own partners. Coleman and Fish in next, delivering a spectacular back and forth wrestling and striking exchange which ends with Caprice hitting a leg lariat for 2. Alexander and Taven, the junior partners on their respective teams, take centre stage next – with Cedric hitting a springboard tornado DDT before mayhem breaks out as all six men pile in. TOPE SUICIDA BY LETHAL! STEREO SOMERSAULT PLANCHAS BY C&C! The heels resort to cheap tactics to gain a foothold in the contest, with first O’Reilly then Fish hitting Jay from behind as he tries to focus on the TV Champion. Kyle tags in and unleashes a bombardment of MMA-influenced strikes on Lethal for 2, and that’s the cue for an intense heat segment. The three champions show real fluidity as a team, which puts the ineffectiveness of the Titus/Compton team in the last match to shame. Even Taven looks right at home riling up the crowd and exchanging cocky pleasantries with his new partners. reDRagon eventually let Jay slip through their grasp, getting the hot tag to a fired up Alexander who delivers a split-legged moonsault on Bobby! HART ATTACK leg lariat nailed, into TOTAL ELIMINATION! Taven shoves Coleman off the top rope, then climbs it himself for a FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH ON CEDRIC! Alexander retaliates with a corkscrew enzi on Kyle…only for Matt to drop him with a rolling bicycle kick. MIND TRIP by Caprice! BACK DROP DRIVER BY FISH! LETHAL COMBINATION ON O’REILLY! Taven nails Lethal just as he looks set for Hail To The King! This is chaos! RUNNING KNEE REGALPLEX COMBO BY REDRAGON…FOR 2! Chasing The Dragon countered with an IED from Alexander. OVERTIME NAILED! C&C beat the Tag champs at 15:07!
Rating – **** – I think I’m being pretty generous with this rating, but this was the best match on the show in so many ways, and I thought the rating should reflect that. The action was frenetic, but executed with great skill. People like Taven and Cedric, who can be hit or miss in their spot work, were both bang on the money – showcasing their continuing improvement. The heat segment on Lethal could have felt extremely generic, but I was constantly entertained by the subtle little touches that the three champions provided. Taven, without the HOT Hoopla accompanying him to ringside, revelled in the additional attention and was a whole lot of fun. Toss in the last few minutes, which was some of the best spotfest material Ring Of Honor has done all year. For a throwaway, filler trios tag on a B-show, this was an unexpected delight. It’s almost a shame this one wasn’t at an SBG TV taping…
Jimmy Jacobs vs Kevin Steen
Apparently Mr Wrestling has made it his mission to beat as many members of SCUM as possible before he gets his singles match with Matt Hardy. This evening he faces his former friend and co-founder of SCUM in a repeat of the match which rocked the 10th Anniversary: Young Wolves Rising event when these guys tore the building apart in a No DQ war. Steen will be hot favourite, but one shouldn’t under-estimate Jimmy, who has been in matches of this ilk countless times before in his ROH career, and in 2013 is delivering some of his best in-ring performances for years. He’s a definite threat.
We don’t have to wait long for the fight to start, with fists flying and bodies crashing into guardrails before either man makes it to the ring. Jacobs tries to spear Steen, only for the former World Champion to move and cause the Zombie Princess to dive head-first into the barrier! He tries to choke Steen with a chain…and that’s a disqualification at 01:03. Security floods the ring to break them up, only for Steen to freak out and start attacking everyone who comes near him. Compton and Titus are out here too, rushing to the aid of Jacobs (and Corino). Kevin orders the ref to restart the match under No DQ rules, and after a brief ‘call’ to Match Maker Nigel McGuinness, the refs agree to his demands! Steen tosses Rhett and Cliff into the crowd then starts beating Jacobs with a stolen shoe! Jimmy hits back with a low blow followed by a spear on the apron! He bashes Steen’s skull against a chair then runs into a second spear for a nearfall. He lands a tope suicida too, putting his body on the line as he looks to take Steen out before he can reach Hardy. His body is on the line again moments later as Mr Wrestling scoops him up for the APRON POWERBOMB! Steen-ton Bomb gets 2! Jacobs thinks fast, avoiding the cannonball in the corner and landing the rebound cutter! He sets up the Contra Code but can’t move the big man and winds up caught for a tree of woe cannonball! TREE OF WOE COUNTER TO THE CONTRA CODE ON A CHAIR! That was awesome! He tries to drag a segment of guardrail into the ring, finally positioning it in the corner without seeing Steen wrap a chain around his fist! CHAIN-WRAPPED PUNCH! F-5 COUNTERED TO END TIME! COUNTERED BACK TO THE F-5! Jacobs drops Steen on top of the guardrail segment, but can’t finish the job with a chair shot! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER THROUGH THE GUARDRAIL! Steen wins at 11:39 (total time).
Rating – *** – It depends on your personal preference how much you liked the overbooking at the start, and I certainly found the watered down, family friendly, house show mode brawling to be a step down from their intense battle last year on ppv. Having said that, these two are still plenty good enough to make this a decent match. I loved the countering at the end, particularly from Jacobs who continues his remarkable career upswing this year. ROH really needs to let him cut loose and wrestle more high profile stuff, as he’s having as good matches as anyone else on the roster at present.
Much as he did last week with Titus, Steen delivers a post-match beating in front of the helpless gaze of Steve Corino. F-5 THROUGH AN OPEN CHAIR!
In response, Steve Corino leaves commentary and is replaced by Mark Briscoe for the main event.
Jay Briscoe vs BJ Whitmer – ROH World Title Match
For a filler title defence, this one has received a lot of hype. Whitmer is calling it his chance at redemption, with the championship belt being proof of the hard work he’s put in to turn his life around, overcome multiple injuries and personal problems since his ROH departure, and reward for the way he’s turned his career around since earning his job back in 2012. He was awarded this title shot as Nigel tried to throw challenger after challenger in front of Kevin Steen whilst he had the belt. Of course Jay ended up being the man who ended Steen’s run, with Whitmer now looking to profit and defeat a still only half-fit World Champion in his second title defence.
The initial pace is slow and ground-based, which you have to believe favours Whitmer rather than the champion. The challenger shows his comfort in this style of match as he openly requests more hold exchanges with Jay – holding his arms out for knucklelocks, willingly bringing him in for grapples and so forth. In the end it becomes so intense that they spill out of the ring and lay in some brutal strikes – with Briscoe now gaining the edge using a mafia kick off the rails. He tosses BJ into the barriers with such force that he busts through them and spills into the laps of the fans behind. Wisely BJ drags the match back into the ring, and back to the deck as he delivers a spinebuster for 2. Except this time he’s been weakened from the abuse on the outside, and leaves his chin open for a Roaring Elbow from the champion. He needs a big strike, and swings for the fences by landing an elbow suicida. That drove his back and neck against the guardrail, and it’s a region of the body Whitmer stays focused on as he hits rolling suplexes then grounds the champ again with a chinlock. Briscoe goes for a DVD only for it to be countered into a powerslam for 2. Jay has been on the back foot for several minutes, so sensibly hits a flipping neckbreaker – attacking a body part BJ has struggled with since his wild table ride at the hands of Charlie Haas at Final Battle 2012. DRAGON SUPLEX BY BJ! He’s back up in a flash to deliver the rolling fisherman suplexes and score another nearfall. BRISCOE GRABS BJ AND BACK DROP DRIVERS HIM OVER THE TOP ROPE…THROUGH A TABLE! He seemed to crash through that table head-first! The pressure of being champion looks like it’s weighing on Jay, as he angrily blocks the path of medical personnel and additional referees and demands to be allowed to bring Whitmer back into the ring to finish the match. Whitmer kicks out, so Jay pulls him up and NECKBREAKERS HIM! Joe Dumbrowski calls it ‘uncomfortable’ to watch, and I’ll second that, particularly writing this review on the same weekend as his accident with Mike Bennett in Toronto! JAY DRILLER! WHITMER KICKS OUT! He can barely stand and doesn’t appear to be able to move one of his arms, but he still gets to his feet and hits an exploder suplex! Briscoe channels Bryan Danielson, pummelling Whitmer’s neck with elbow strikes. Whitmer refuses to go down, despite being repeatedly booted in the face! Jay is remorseless, and doesn’t stop putting his boots through BJ’s face! Todd Sinclair is begging Whitmer to stop, and when he doesn’t Jay locks in a dragon sleeper. At last the challenger has nothing left, handing Jay another successful title defence at 20:31
Rating – *** – I hadn’t heard many positive things about this match, so I was actually pleasantly surprised. Admittedly I’ve given it the same rating, but I personally enjoyed this far more than the Adam Cole defence at Border Wars, which was completely devoid of interest until all the overbooking came in. Kind of like Roderick/Mark earlier, these guys had a lengthy time allowance, and used it to tell a story. It might not have been particularly interesting (BJ looking to wrestle and suplex his way to victory, whilst Jay backed himself in a striking/brawling game) – but they stick with it. The last quarter, with Briscoe getting irritated at not being able to put BJ away, then targeting his suspect neck like an asshole – then putting him through a table and refusing to let doctors attend to him were really good. It injected some much needed personality and intensity into Jay’s championship reign.
Tape Rating – *** – Much as with Dragon’s Reign last week, this was another really strong house show. Nothing was even close to the quality of Elgin/ACH or reDRagon/Briscoes last week, but then again, nothing was anywhere near as bad as Vinny Marseglia against Tommaso either! There’s not a bad match on the show, with lots of solid wrestling – and surprisingly good matches from people you wouldn’t necessarily expect (Kyle Matthews, Adam Page, Matt Taven, BJ Whitmer etc). I’d call the Steen/Jacobs match a disappointment (although it’s still perfectly decent), but everything else exceeded my expectations, so it’s hard to come away too dissatisfied. If you’re a completist, or even if you’re looking for a fun, short, inconsequential show to check out on VOD without getting into anything too heavy, this one isn’t a bad watch. It’s completely skippable as there’s almost nothing with any long-term significance, but I had a good time watching it
Top 3 Matches
3) Adam Cole vs Adam Page (***)
2) Jay Briscoe vs BJ Whitmer (***)
1) Jay Lethal/Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander vs Kyle O’Reilly/Bobby Fish/Matt Taven (****)