ROH 332 – All Star Extravaganza 5 – 3rd August 2013
There’s no doubting it…this is a huge show for ROH. They are running in one of the biggest and most historic venues they’ve ever promoted, they are kicking off the World Title tournament (technically it started at the Providence TV tapings but none of those matches have aired yet), and they’ve brought in a TON of outside talent for the show. Kushida and new ROH Tag Champions the Forever Hooligans are in from NJPW, and we also have the return of four high profile American talents – the Young Bucks, Brian ‘Spanky’ Kendrick and Paul London. The card is outstanding too. The American Wolves challenge the Forever Hooligans for the Tag Titles in the main event, and the first round of the World Title tournament gives us potential gems like Strong/Taven, Lethal/Cole, Steen/Kendrick and the eagerly-anticipated Elgin/London encounter we were supposed to get on TV after Border Wars 2013. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness are in for a wild evening in Toronto, ONT.
Adam Page vs Kushida
What a way to start the show this could be. Kushida is a rising star in Japan, and a former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champion – and his arrival for this show was certainly met with approval from ROH fans with a working knowledge of New Japan. Incidentally, his partner in Japan is ROH-alum Alex Shelley. They need to get him back here pronto. His opponent for his ROH debut this evening is ROH’s own rising star – Adam Page. He’s recently signed a contract which means he’ll be appearing on a regular basis. He’s reportedly signed on to play the lead in a crowd-funded wrestling-themed television show (produced by Maria Kanellis) so clearly the future is bright for him. Can he start living up to that hype with some noteworthy victories though?
It’s an impressive start from Kushida, who settles quickly and repeatedly takes Page off his feet with dropkicks. Pescado misses though, and Page shows some genuine aggression by shunting his back into the apron then camel clutching him in the ropes. He also uses Kushi’s speed against him as he catches him sprinting with his head down to spin him into a powerslam for 2. Grounded abdominal stretch applied (as some asshole hurls horrendous abuse at both guys)…but Kushida escapes and gets to the ropes for a springboard Tomahawk chop! He hits a handspring back elbow (taught to him by his trainer Yoshihiro Tajiri) then heads to the top looking for a moonsault…only to dive into Page’s knees! Adam tries to capitalise on that error with a brainbuster only for Kushida to counter him with a small package for 2. RED STAR PRESS by Page, quickly followed by a falcon arrow for 2. Page to the top (with the same drunk asshole screaming at him to do the ‘Brock Lesnar Wrestlemania bump’ – seriously, this douchebag needs to be chucked out now)…and is caught. BUZZSAW KICK from Kushida! MIDNIGHT EXPRESS NAILED! Kushida wins at 08:22
Rating – *** – Despite what that one very vocal retard in the crowd thought, that was a really competitive opening match. Kushida showed some really slick wrestling and high spots, but to me it was Page’s performance that was particularly impressive here. The NJPW guy didn’t necessarily sell too hard for him – but the way he targeted all his offence at the back and ribs was great. Kushida has appeared on some seriously major shows for New Japan, and Page certainly didn’t look out of place in the ring with him.
Kevin Kelly drops loads of hints about Alex Shelley coming to join Kushida in ROH in the future. As of writing in late-October of 2013 that still hasn’t been confirmed though. Shelley back in ROH needs to happen!
Silas Young vs Tommaso Ciampa
This is a first round match in the ROH World Title tournament. Silas is a wildcard entry, having won his spot in the tournament by defeating QT Marshall and Adam Page on television (broadcast on the same night as this event was taped). He will square off with a man many have picked as a dark horse to win the tournament. Ciampa has looked fantastic since returning from his major knee injury, and will be looking to go as far as possible in the tournament as he looks to progress his ROH career. These two had one of the better matches on a poor night for ROH in Dearborn at Reclamation Night 2 – which saw Tommaso emerge victorious but only after Silas had seen his win overturned by Match Maker McGuinness because he used the bell hammer.
Both guys appear to be in a foul mood and are getting into each other’s faces before the bell has rung. When it does they engage in a collar-and-elbow that is so intense they collapse out of the ring and quite literally smash into the guardrails! Ciampa does his best to dictate the pace by grabbing onto headlocks, but Young is tenacious in his desire to escape and eventually does so with an emphatic back suplex. Tommaso doesn’t like that and BOOTS Silas in the face for 2! He draws a big pop from the crowd by trying to rip the moustache away from Young’s face too. He literally tosses Young into the corner by the moustache…only for Silas to block the bare knee strike with a series of clubbing blows to the head. They battle for superiority on the apron, with Ciampa scoring with an exposed knee…ONLY FOR YOUNG TO HIT A SNAP SUPLEX TO THE FLOOR! The crew are struggling to correct the lights after Ciampa’s dramatic entrance, meaning the ring is bathed in an ominous red glow as both men battle to beat the count back into the ring. They do so, and are still so intent on fighting that they are crawling back in HEADBUTTING each other! DRAGON SUPLEX gets 2 for Tommaso. Young dropkicks at the bad knee of Ciampa then gets a nearfall right back with the backbreaker/lariat combo. BARE KNEE STRIKE to counter the headstand Arabian Press! Silas blocks the avalanche Air Raid Crash but is then CAUGHT jumping off the top ropes and flipped into a spinebuster. Project Ciampa blocked…and the two men absolutely unload on each other with elbow smashes! Lariat from Silas is NO SOLD! PROJECT CIAMPA NAILED! He advances at 10:53
Rating – **** – F*ck it, possibly my rating is a little generous but this was a better match than their Reclamation encounter and had a clean finish so I wanted to reward them. These guys have great chemistry in the ring together (Silas seems to have great chemistry with everyone he meets) and the intensity of their respective personas is marvellous to watch. This looked and felt like a savage fight between two men as intent on kicking the sh*t out of their opponent as they were about becoming World Champion. Silas’ rise up the card and Tommaso’s return have been two of my favourite things about 2013 in Ring Of Honor.
Michael Bennett vs BJ Whitmer
This is another first round match in the World Title tournament, and puts together two men who are developing quite the rivalry. They’ve traded wins on television, house show and ippv, we’ve seen Bennett assault the Buzzsaw on Maria’s instruction…and now they meet again with the stakes raised higher as they look to progress towards the top prize in Ring Of Honor.
Bennett tries to jump Whitmer, and sprints into the EXPLODER ’98 for 2! He tries to run away right afterwards but BJ is still all over him – this time with a tope suicida then a suplex on the floor! Michael is on the defensive, so it’s to his credit that he keeps his wits about him and spots an opportunity to drop toehold Whitmer into the ropes, then blasts him with a dropkick from the outside. The action stays on the floor with Bennett hitting a version of the Samoa Joe’s Ole Ole Kick and a body slam. But he gets over-confident and attempts what can only be described as a Bronco Buster only to horribly miss. Whitmer drops him right on his neck with a back suplex for 2. Bennett goes after the neck, driving it into the canvas with a spinebuster before peppering it with close-range knee strikes. That really pisses BJ off…and soon Nigel McGuinness is pissed off because Maria is trying to hand Michael one of her shoes to use as a weapon. He physically involves himself to preserve his new era of ‘purity’, and orders Todd Sinclair to eject her from ringside, then physically carries out that order by hauling her out (slapping her beautiful exposed rear end as he does). TOP ROPE SUICIDE DIVE BY BJ! There’s still a match going on in the midst of this and it’s tough to pick a winner from here. Whitmer gets a nearfall with the rolling suplexes only for Bennett to target his suspect neck again with a TKO. Rolling fishermans from BJ – and once again Michael is trying to leave. Whitmer lines up an exploder to the floor…BENNETT COUNTERS WITH A F*CKING PILEDRIVER ON THE APRON! And just like that BJ’s career is over. Sinclair immediately stops the match at 10:07 (so Bennett is the winner).
Rating – N/A – For what it’s worth, that was definitely on a par with (if not better) their previous matches, but knowing that this one could have ended BJ Whitmer’s career means I just can’t bring myself to rate it. I feel bad for Bennett too. He took a lot of flak for injuring BJ, although it was clearly an accident and I’m sure it will take him a LONG time to get over it.
SIDENOTE – I really don’t care for the way ROH have edited this section of the DVD. The video is cut almost immediately after the match. I understand not wanting to be morbid (I also understand they were trying to get these segments short enough to go onto the Sinclair TV show), but by not airing at least a few minutes more of the footage to really emphasise the serious nature of BJ’s injury, I don’t think the casual viewer will have anticipated quite what a serious situation it was.
Matt Taven vs Roderick Strong
This one isn’t for the TV Title and isn’t in the Proving Ground, it’s just a happy coincidence that the first round of the World Title tournament has thrown together Truth Martini’s former centrepiece of his House Of Truth against the man who would eventually replace him. Roderick Strong is a former Triple Crown Champion in ROH, and the self-proclaimed ‘Mr ROH’ would like nothing better than to emulate his former partner Austin Aries in becoming a 2-time World Champion. Taven already boasts the TV Title and a victory in the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament to his name. He’s made a habit of pulling off major upset victories all year and will have his sights set on another one here.
Nigel McGuinness has developed a taste for dragging young ladies out of the arena it seems. He hops onto the apron again, telling Scarlett Bordeaux that she doesn’t have a license to be at ringside so either needs to sit down (next to him of course) or get the same treatment Maria just got. Apparently Seleziya has a ‘bodyguard license’. F*ck me that is laughable. In the ring (there is a match going on) Strong is dominating Matt Taven by keeping it on the match where his wrestling superiority comes into play. He’s also got his devastating chops and assortment of backbreakers – both of which are used as Taven struggles to get a foothold in the match. Even Truth Martini’s interference is fruitless and only results in Roddy hitting a jumping heel kick for 2. Nonetheless, he grabs Strong’s boot for a second time and this time distracts him for long enough to allow Matt to hit a springboard dropkick. The TV Champion hits a British Bulldog-style vertical suplex, then the springboard corkscrew senton for 2. Taven starts working the legs, damaging Strong’s ability to hit all his signature moves. He heads upstairs, and executes a gorgeous moonsault…except he connects with Strong’s raised knees! Roddy is limping but a damaged leg doesn’t stop him hammering Taven with chops. He clotheslines Matt out of the ring for a DROPKICK THROUGH THE ROPES! Martini waffles Roderick Strong with the Book Of Truth…and Nigel wants to get involved again. He pulls Strong aside, causing Taven to inadvertently boot his own manager! TORTURE RACK BACKBREAKER ON THE APRON! Credit to Taven though, as he absorbs that to counter the Orange Crush Backbreaker with a boot to the neck. Rolling bicycle kick into ANGEL’S WINGS for 2! Roderick nearly breaks the ring delivering a devastating superplex…and rolls it into the Stronghold! Matt gets to the ropes, refusing to let his predecessor in the HOT get the best of him. He hits the slingshot swinging neckbreaker, then the FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH for 2! Climax (Headlock Driver) COUNTERED to a cradle backbreaker! SICK KICK! ORANGE CRUSH BACKBREAKER! Roderick advances at 13:08
Rating – *** – The crowd were understandably taken out of the match by the BJ Whitmer injury, which is a shame because it was actually pretty good. As is standard with the House Of Truth, the antics of the characters at ringside threatened to over-shadow the action…but it’s there that we saw the real growth of Matt Taven. A few months ago I said he was like a rabbit in the headlights, struggling to get screen-time, struggling to show any kind of personality and really looking horribly out of his depth as TV Champion. But he’s turned that around, and tonight demonstrated that even with a whole load of extra-curricular shenanigans he can deliver a crisp, confident and focused in-ring performance. He took the best shots Roderick had, and kept getting up to return fire with his own stuff. In the end it was his tenacity inside the ring, rather than Martini, Nigel, Seleziya and Scarlett outside which brought the crowd back to life after BJ’s injury. The right man advances (for match quality and prestige anyway) but this was another credible effort from the young Television Champion.
Michael Elgin vs Paul London
This was originally booked for the post-Border Wars TV tapings in Toronto earlier this year, but the head injury suffered by London during his comeback bout against Davey Richards at the ppv caused it to be postponed. But ROH officials promised to bring the Intrepid Traveller back after he was so impressive in his homecoming and have lived up to their promise. The Toronto fans do now get to see the legendary Paul London against Unbreakable Michael Elgin – and it’s part of the ROH World Title tournament. Elgin is still officially considered #1 contender, and could have been handed the title after Jay Briscoe’s injury but turned it down. He will be considered one of the favourites for the tournament – but wouldn’t it be an incredible story if Paul could return home and capture the one prize that alluded him in his critically-acclaimed first run in ROH?
If anything, London is in even better shape here than he was at Border Wars – and demonstrates that by back flipping off the turnbuckles during his entrance. Kevin Kelly points out that he was part of the first ROH Title tournament back in 2002. Elgin isn’t phased by any of it though, showing his power by repeatedly shoving him into the ropes. Unbreakable wants a test of strength…but Paul is too smart for him. He uses that position to leverage the big man into a headlock then immediately quickens the pace with a satellite headscissors. Paul knows he has to work at a quick pace, but everything he tries seems to fail. He can’t out-wrestle the big man, when he knocks him to the floor for a dive Elgin is back in before he can execute it, and when he finally hits a dropkick Unbreakable pops up to send him SPINNING through the air with a shoulder block. Michael stands in the middle of the ring as if to say ‘this is my ring’. London tries the aerial route instead, only to be caught going for a slingshot springboard crossbody into a massive powerslam for 2. At 5 minutes Unbreakable seems to have an answer to everything the veteran throws at him. ONE MINUTE SUPLEX NAILED! Rolling backbreakers score next before he simply dumps London’s limp body on the deck like a sandbag. In the end it’s over-confidence on Elgin’s part that gives Paul an opportunity – as he scales the ropes to MISS a corkscrew senton. But Elgin shuts it down again with the ST-JOE! Paul is in real danger of being seriously injured as Michael escorts him to the apron for what appears to be a back drop driver.
PAUL HITS HIM WITH A FLYING HEADSCISSORS TO THE FLOOR! At 10 minutes that’s his first major offensive strike of the match, and he follows it with springboard dropkick and a rolling heel kick in the corner. Elgin misses a butt splash…RED STAR PRESS GETS 2! A Black Hole Slam splats the Intrepid Traveller back into the mat though. DEAD-LIFT STALLING GERMAN SUPLEX! Paul refuses to quit, escaping the Buckle Bomb and double stomping his opponent’s massive chest. Nothing he does works, as he expends masses of energy striking with the big Canadian only for Unbreakable to knock him down with a single shot. Nigel wonders if Paul is trying to exhaust Elgin, but it doesn’t seem like that as he absorbs a jumping enzi before simply shaking it off to hit a DEATH BLOW! LONDON RETURNS FIRE WITH THE DROP-SAULT! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! And he’s not done! SPRINGBOARD DOUBLE STOMP TO THE FLOOR! He goes upstairs for one more high-flying strike but this time is caught on the top rope. London looks like a wildman as he desperately throws headbutts in Elgin’s direction! ELGIN DROPKICKS HIM OFF THE TOP! DEAD-LIFT SUPERPLEX NAILED! FOR 2! How much more does Paul have left? BUCKLE BOMB! SPIRAL BOMB…COUNTERED TO A REVERSE RANA! LONDON STAR PRESS! ELGIN KICKS OUT! Paul can’t believe it, and tries to haul Elgin up to the top for a super rana. AWESOMEBOMB BY ELGIN! BACK FIST! BUCKLE BOMB! SPIRAL BOMB! It’s all over, with Michael Elgin advancing and London going 0-2 on his ROH return at 19:57
Rating – ****1/2 – I’m going to get heat for over-rating on this show aren’t I? I thought this was fantastic, and if Paul’s comeback match with Davey wasn’t enough to get him a permanent spot on the roster I can’t believe this wouldn’t. A masterful performance from both men, who receive a deserved standing ovation for it. Elgin has been imperious in 2013, producing amazing matches against pretty much everyone, so for him to produce another great one isn’t that surprising. The shock here is that London hung with him every step of the way. For a ‘part time guy’ that is an incredible feat. Everything they did was so crisp. Elgin bumped like a champ for Paul, whilst London threw himself around like a maniac to make Unbreakable look like a killer. I loved the story they went for – with Elgin (the full time, younger and bigger man) seemingly having an answer to everything Paul tried. But London was spectacular, playing the role of the wily and resilient old fox to a tee. He refused to stay down, and at around the 15-minute mark it really seemed like Elgin was going to punch himself out. If they can afford him, and if he wants to sign, Paul needs to be full-time now. They may not have been technically the best, but truthfully I can’t think of too many matches I’ve enjoyed watching more than his two Ring Of Honor matches this year.
Adrenaline RUSH vs Young Bucks vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander
Some of the best matches of the Bucks had during their time in SBG-ROH was in a triple threat rivalry with the Bravados and Future Shock. The news that they were coming back to ROH (after they were so badly treated by Sinclair last year) surprised and excited Ring Of Honor fans in equal measure. They are part of Nigel’s plan to beef up the tag division in the absence of a World Champion – and they slip into what should be an incredibly athletic spectacle against two of ROH’s most exciting and high-flying in-house tag teams.
The Bucks haven’t lost any confidence during their ROH hiatus, as they still don’t shake hands and are extremely dismissive of their opponents. Alexander and Tadarius start in terrific fashion, trading reversals and strikes for fun. The Jacksons don’t enjoy being shown up, so storm the ring, dismiss them and hit a backbreaker/neckbreaker combo on ACH. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA by Alexander! But he tries to springboard back in and succeeds only in propelling himself into a cartwheel capoeira kick from TD. Hart Attack leg lariat on ACH gets 2. Matt tags in just as ACH quickens the pace – back flipping across the ring before hitting a hurricanrana. BACK FLIP DROPKICK OFF THE APRON ON MATT! NICK SUPERKICKS ACH ON THE FLOOR! The Bucks boot Thomas into the guardrails too, then celebrate as they’ve successfully dispatched all four opponents to the outside. Signature Young Bucks next, using repeated tags and double stomping TD’s arm as they try to isolate him. Matt makes a point of standing in front of ACH, preparing himself for a HANDSPRING BACK RAKE! Buckle Bomb/enzi combo gets 2! Coleman tags in and hits a spinning axe kick on Matt, then the ROLLING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Top rope leg drop gets 2 on Matt! BICYCLE KICK/HALF NELSON SUPLEX COMBO by Adrenaline RUSH! ACH scores a close nearfall with the slingshot cutter on Cedric. BERMUDA TRIANGLE MOONSAULT by Thomas! AIR JORDAN PLANCHA BY ACH! SUPERKICKS BY THE BUCKS! DOUBLE RANA ON BOTH BUCKS BY CAPRICE! More Bang For Your Buck COUNTERED WITH OVERTIME! BUT MATT GETS KNEES UP! ACH SNEAKS IN WITH A 450 SPLASH! RUSH WIN! ACH pins Cedric at 10:57
Rating – *** – Super-fun spotfest, with the overwhelming quality of the Young Bucks visibly causing their two opposing teams to up their game to hang with them. The Bucks can sleepwalk through matches like this, and really didn’t need to do anything more than their usual spots. But it’s been so long since we’ve had them in this promotion that everything they did was lapped up. They made for entertaining heels, whilst everyone else busted their ass around them. ACH and Cedric (not for the first time) were utterly spectacular – and so fluent with everything they did. Hopefully this isn’t a one-time deal and we can start seeing the Young Bucks back more frequently – although I won’t hold my breath on them signing a new contract anytime soon!
Kevin Steen vs Brian Kendrick
This is the final ROH Title tournament first round match (of the night – we have more to see from the Providence TV tapings) and it pits a former World Champion against another man who was in the first tournament to crown a Ring Of Honor Champion. In fact Brian ‘Spanky’ Kendrick made it all the way to the final, and was part of the stunning Iron Man Match in almost inhuman Philadelphia heat which saw Low Ki become the first champion. He’s back in ROH for the first time in a long time but, like his long-time partner Paul London earlier, has a tough assignment if he is to advance.
Steen gets a hero’s welcome and, as always, is the most popular worker on the show by some distance. Spanky is extremely cagey and seems desperate to keep a safe distance between himself and Mr Wrestling. Any time Steen grabs a hold of him he makes an instant grab at the ropes to break it. Kevin taunts him into trying shoulder blocks despite being substantially smaller – and wisely Kendrick declines in favour of trying to quicken the pace and go for flash pins. Sadly for him Steen has no problem going up through the gears and delivers a dropkick with such force that Spanky actually runs away and sits on the floor outside the ring. He strolls around, taking his time and giving as many front row fans a view of his magnificent flowing hair as possible. Steen eventually gives chase…and again Brian shows his veteran instincts by GRABBING THE ROPES as Kevin tries to Apron Bomb him. SLICED BREAD #2 ON THE APRON! Kendrick wants a count-out win but is in position to boot Steen right in the face as he slides back in. He clings to a sleeper hold until Steen Vader dives backwards to splat both their bodies into the mat. Pumphandle cradlebreaker nailed for 2. Kendrick makes the mistake of trying to get Steen on his shoulders for a DVD, only for Steen to make a similar mistake in trying a top rope move. He is punished with a running DVD by Spanky. Sharpshooter blocked, and when Steen tries a catapult Brian once again has the answer – catching himself in the ropes to hit a swinging DDT. Sliced Bread #2 COUNTERED WITH THE F-5…for 2. Package Piledriver blocked…Sliced Bread blocked! SLEEPER SUPLEX FOR 2! Again Kendrick is in those damn ropes! He then hides behind the referee to stop him hitting a cannonball. Illegal low blow, which Kevin no sells for a CHOKESLAM! SHARPSHOOTER! Kendrick taps at 12:48
Rating – *** – This one got some low ratings from fans in attendance, so maybe this is one which came off a lot better on DVD. I loved seeing Kendrick back in ROH. His quirky, off-beat personality has always felt like a refreshing change of pace to the very serious nature of this promotion generally (as far back as the first few shows in 2002 that’s been the case) and it was no different here. Coming after a wild three-way tag spotfest probably wasn’t ideal, but the way he continually dodged, ducked, evaded, countered or straight up ran away from everything Steen threw at him was really fun. I’d happily see him back again, possibly even teaming with Paul London as part of the revamped and turbo-boosted tag division.
Adam Cole vs Jay Lethal
This is the first of the World Title tournament quarter finals, with these two already having progressed through their first round matches with Mark Briscoe and Sonjay Dutt respectively to reach this stage. Cole is a decent bet to win the tournament (despite a less than impressive win/loss record in 2013) thanks to his new found mean streak we saw during his recent ppv battle with Roderick Strong. Lethal, meanwhile, is a former TV and Pure Champion, and will be looking to win the big one after failing to take the belt from Kevin Steen earlier this year. For the VOD of this show they included the tournament matches from Providence as a bonus – the fact that they’re not present here makes me think there will be a complete World Title Tournament DVD at some point down the line.
Lethal is entirely respectful in the early going, giving Cole clean breaks where appropriate. These two are very similar athletes, and it’s noticeable that they both look to prevent any kind of explosive offensive flurries by working a slow pace and grabbing headlocks whenever possible. There is plenty of countering too, with Lethal’s hiptoss/dropkick combo evaded by Cole alongside an assortment of nearfall predicaments. Adam ups the ante with a jumping neckbreaker which hands him a significant advantage for the first time. Jay absorbs some blows but eventually blocks a superkick and hits Adam with an inverted DDT. He looks up the grounded crucifix stretch…only for Cole to COUNTER to a Figure 4 attempt! Once again neither man really gets ahead and they both roll into the ropes to force a break. Jumping enzi from the floor by Cole…springboard dropkick in response by Lethal! He reacts quickest to sprint into a tope suicida as well. Both men crawl around the ring in a struggle to recover from that spot – eventually rolling into the ring looking equally frustrated at their inability to establish some dominance as we approach the 10-minute mark. They lay into each other with strikes until Adam shuts his opponent down with the Death Valley neckbreaker. Shining Wizard gets 2. Cradlebreaker is countered into the Lethal Combination though! Lethal wants the Macho Elbow, but takes an eternity climbing the turnbuckles and is easily caught. He tries a missile dropkick only for Cole to sweep him aside. Figure 4 COUNTERED to a small package for 2! COLE BLOCKS THE LETHAL INJECTION WITH A SUPERKICK! Cradlebreaker is nailed second time of asking but still we only have a nearfall. Lethal starts throwing desperate superkicks from all angles, finally sending one clattering into Cole’s jaw which knocks him out. MACHO ELBOW gets 2! Cole doesn’t look like he has much left and lies limp on the canvas seemingly unable to defend himself…but it was all a plot as he pops up once Jay lets his guard down to hit a superkick. Florida Key blocked…LETHAL INJECTION! Cole refuses to be counted down! He superkicks Jay’s knees from under him for to hit a German superplex! Superkick, followed by the Florida Key gets Cole the victory and a semi-final spot at 16:42
Rating – *** – This was a decent match, but definitely felt on the long side. These two are so similar. They have similar styles, similar physiques and they have comparable levels of popularity with ROH crowds too. Cole’s ‘tweener’ run is being received about as indifferently as Lethal’s was back in late 2012 (although you suspect Cole has the tools to pull off a much more impactful heel turn if and when Delirious pulls the trigger on it). As such, the crowd was either equally into both guys, or equally indifferent to them – depending on whether your glass is half empty or half full. However you slice it, it meant the audience was quiet which didn’t help the wrestlers. The story they told was interesting, with neither athlete ever able to establish any sort of control, both becoming less and less disciplined in their approaches before finally degenerating into tossing around superkicks and finishers for fun. To pull off this kind of match WITHOUT it feeling like a spotfest is extremely difficult and they certainly achieved that. Sadly they’d lost the crowd (maybe it’s the Whitmer injury factor?) and just couldn’t seem to make their work engaging enough to get them back. Better on DVD than this was live I imagine…
Paul London is interviewed as he leaves the arena. He’s disappointed he lost, but isn’t ashamed of his performance and goes to great lengths to put Elgin over. He backs Unbreakable to win the tournament.
Forever Hooligans vs American Wolves – ROH Tag Title Match
Originally this was scheduled to be another Wolves/reDRagon Tag Title Match, but after the Hooligans shocked everyone by winning the belts in Providence the week earlier Fish and O’Reilly boycotted this show in protest (i.e. they still have visa issues and can’t work in Canada) and the Wolves’ title shot was rebooked. It’s a rematch from the 11th Anniversary Show, it will once again see Davey clash with former NRC comrade Rocky Romero…and we’ll see if the Wolves can dethrone the current ROH Tag Champions in their very first defence.
It’s the former NRC members (and Tag Champions) Romero and Richards who start for their respective teams. Both are so influenced by MMA and their near-miss strike exchange is right on point. Rocky pretends to beg for mercy and uses Davey’s hesitance to grab a wristlock. Richards tries the same trick and actually kisses Rocky’s feet…only for Romero to stop him again for good measure. Even McGuinness can’t explain Davey’s logic there! Thankfully Eddie isn’t too far away and he calls out Davey’s stupidity with a SUPER-HARD TAG! The rest of his frustration at his partner’s antics is taken out in the form of cops aimed at Koslov’s chest. Alex responds by swatting Richards away and hitting a somersault plancha. Rocky then trips Davey outside for a FLYING KNEE OFF THE APRON! The Hooligans have really asserted themselves now, with Koslov hanging off the apron to apply a Mexican surfboard in the ropes on Eddie…as Romero has an octopus stretch on Richards! As usual, the Hooligans pretend to fight amongst themselves before hugging it out – a spot which becomes progressively less fun every time they do it (which is every match). Edwards punishes them by exploding out of the corner into a sliding enzi on Rocky. Davey recognises that their opponents have been the better team thus far so decides to slow the pace, getting Edwards to join him as they look for a 2-on-1 beatdown – thus isolating Romero from his partner. They spend several minutes wearing Rocky out, working stretches and multiple tandem spots to keep him away from Koslov. Even when he gets to his corner he can’t get to his partner as Davey has dragged Koslov off the apron.
The Toronto fans (who have never liked Davey) have placed the Wolves as the de facto heels, which is something Davey revels in…and it leads to some really entertaining moments between he and the Canadian audience. Davey gets so over-confident that he ends up accidentally kicking his own partner in the head, then turning a blind eye to an inverted enzi strike from Romero. Hot tag to Koslov who clears the ring then calls for the Cossack hat. COSSACK KICKS on Edwards! TORNADO SUPLEX gets 2, only for Alex to get caught on the top rope and dragged off into the Backpack Stunner. Davey steals Koslov’s hat, drawing masses of boos from the crowd (and even Edwards is angry at his partner’s bizarre performance). It only ends up antagonising the Hooligans as they hoist him up to MISS the Doomsday Knee Strike. ANKLELOCK/ACHILLES LOCK COMBO! STEREO SMALL PACKAGE COUNTERS from the Hooligans for 2. Koslov counters the double Alarm Clock to hit a satellite DDT on Eddie. Richards sprints across the ring into a German suplex from Koslov. NO SOLD! DOUBLE STOMP! All four men go down! Rocky is first up, dropping Edwards with a springboard dropkick. DOOMSDAY KNEE STRIKE ON EDDIE! Die Hard isn’t beaten yet though, and he dragon screws Romero in the ropes. Davey wants a tag…AS ROMERO ROLLS TO THE APRON! He wants to hit the London Killer double stomp! The crowd HATE it, and he takes so long setting it up that Alex is able to come to his partner’s rescue. SPRINGBOARD ELECTRIC CHAIR RANA FROM ROCKY! SHOOTING STAR PRESS BY KOSLOV…EDDIE SAVES! Forever Hooligans think the match is won, only for Davey to counter Koslov into the KICK OF DEATH TOMBSTONE COMBO! DOUBLE DOUBLE STOMP! ROMERO KICKS OUT! Powerbomb Lungblower countered…stereo soccer punts ducked! DOUBLE ALARM CLOCK! ROMERO KNEES EDDIE! NO SOLD! LARIATOOOOO! DOOMSDAY LUNGBLOWER! DAVEY WINS! He pins his former tag partner Romero to win the belts at 26:37
Rating – **** – This one has gotten some mixed reviews, but I thought it was a fantastic tag team main event blighted by a really poor and non-responsive crowd. Davey Richards was on another level in this one. I’m not sure it makes total sense that he’d intentionally remove himself from World Title contention to focus on the Tag belts, then spend his shot at the titles seemingly completely preoccupied with pissing the Toronto fans off – but it made for incredibly entertaining viewing. He was the guy who finally got them to stop sitting on their hands. In the end this became the culmination of nearly two years of Canadian frustration – as he continually went out of his way to piss these guys off. From the opening minute he was playing games (making fun of Romero’s fake mercy plea), regardless of whether it actually helped his team or not. Eddie almost became the embodiment of the Toronto fans inside the ring, berating Davey for being a tool, angrily tagging him when he’d cost them the initiative and looking utterly disgusted when he stole Koslov’s hat for no reason other than to be a dick. And amongst a bizarre but utterly brilliant performance from Davey you had the other three clicking on a much higher level than they did during their underwhelming 11th Anniversary match. Ultimately if you can get past a weird crowd and you settle in for a near half-hour tag battle (this really takes a while to heat up) I thought it was a tremendous main event which is getting ridiculous amounts of criticism from some.
Tape Rating – **** – I have this down as one of the best ROH shows of 2013. That surprises me somewhat as, having perused the net to seek other opinions on this DVD, it seems like many felt very disappointed by it. Perhaps it was the lack of discernible crowd heat for most of the show (anything after the Whitmer incident), or perhaps it was the fact that the main event has proven to be particularly divisive. For me, there’s not a bad match on the show (even Whitmer/Bennett was the best they’d done together before BJ’s unfortunate injury put a stop to it) and it was an extremely enjoyable three hours of wrestling. London/Elgin was an enjoyable a match as I’ve seen from any promotion in 2013, the main event was a 25+ minute quite extraordinary tag team battle featuring some of the most unique crowd/wrestler relationship dynamics I can remember, there are exciting spotfests, a cracking little opener giving a new rising star a chance to shine and much more. Like I said, lots of people really don’t seem to have enjoyed this as much as me – but I highly recommend giving this show a chance. It was infinitely better than Reclamation Night 2, or Best In The World 2013, and indeed a number of other recent events
Top 3 Matches
3) Tommaso Ciampa vs Silas Young (****)
2) Forever Hooligans vs American Wolves (****)
1) Michael Elgin vs Paul London (****1/2)