ROH 336 – Death Before Dishonor 11 – 20th September 2013
What a strange year to be an ROH fan it has been so far. For me, I find myself endlessly frustrated with the creative direction of the company and (months later) still absolutely devastated at the decision to vacate the ROH Championship. But then you can contrast that to some real highs – like Ciampa’s return from injury, Paul London’s comeback, the continued excellence of the American Wolves and the amazing growth of performers like Michael Elgin, ACH and Cedric Alexander. There have been some really outstanding shows this year. Supercard Of Honor and All Star Extravaganza immediately come to mind, but there have been other good ones. And likewise, there have been some really really unimpressive efforts. This show tonight feels like it could go either way. Will we be left frustrated at another underwhelming show? Will we be left disappointed by more inexplicable booking decisions? Or will we see some outstanding matches, and another excellent ‘big show’ for 2013? The line-up is certainly excellent. Tommaso Ciampa, Adam Cole, Michael Elgin and Kevin Steen are the four men left vying for the vacant ROH World Championship – and by the end of the night one of them will have claimed the belt. Former World Champion Jay Briscoe is also here. Officially he is due to hand the belt to the new champion, but who knows what else he’ll get up to? On top of the tournament, the American Wolves finish their series with the Forever Hooligans – challenging them for their IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Titles. Veteran puro/lucha worker Ricky Marvin appears for ROH in America for the first time as well. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness are in Philadelphia, PA.
SIDENOTE – On the day of the event, ROH announced this was going to be broadcast free over the internet, by the former host of their iPPV expansion GoFightLive. Apparently GFL had new technology and wanted to demonstrate it’s effectiveness. They wanted to air a glitch-free stream and essentially ‘win back’ the ROH business they lost back during Showdown In The Sun weekend. Sadly for GFL, after a near-flawless first half of the show, in the second half the stream became so bad the show was basically unwatchable. Another embarrassing fail for ippv technology, although personally I don’t put the blame at Ring Of Honor’s door this time. They didn’t charge anything and weren’t airing the show anyway. The fans signing up to watch were agreeing to be guinea pigs for the night. It is such a shame though, and you really feel that ROH need to crack their ippv issues if they are ever going to progress.
Jay Briscoe comes straight to the ring. He looks like a hobo and clearly isn’t in any mood to relinquish the World Title belt he holds in his hands. After 11 years in the promotion, and after winning the Championship back from SCUM earlier in the year, he is bitterly disappointed at the ‘higher up’s decision to take it from him. Ironically the man who announced it (Match Maker Nigel McGuinness) WAS allowed to keep the belt despite sustaining several injuries during his title reign. That said, he reluctantly agrees to come back later and give the title to the new champion – if they do it fairly.
Jay Lethal vs Silas Young
And here is a perfect example of my frustration with Delirious’ booking. He has absolutely no undercard feuds going on at all. If you weren’t part of ROH/SCUM, Wolves/reDRagon, or now part of the World Title tournament you may as well not exist. These two are both phenomenally talented workers who are having excellent years. Lethal started 2013 on the cusp of being considered a credible World Champion. Now nine months later he’s curtain jerking in filler matches which is a real shame. Likewise Silas has shown exceptional aptitude for being an undercard heel. He is crying out for a feud of some description to really sink his teeth into. Instead he bounces from match to match, loss to loss, mostly putting in decent in-ring performances and quickly being forgotten about.
Silas is so easy to hate. Within seconds of the bell, and without actually doing anything he has the whole crowd screaming ‘F*ck You Silas’. Lethal rattles him early with a dropkick from the floor for 2. Young evades a tope suicida and shows his veteran instinct by attacking Jay as he tries to pursue him outside the ring. Sadly he neglected to watch EVERY JAY LETHAL MATCH EVER as Jay hits the hiptoss/dropkick sequence. That seemingly does enough damage to leave Young incapacitated on the floor and in the path of the tope suicida trilogy. With some inadvertent assistance from the official Silas assumes control. He slows the pace, keeps Lethal on the deck and looks to wear him down. He keeps grabbing onto a front facelock no matter how many times Jay tries to escape it…and is eventually punished as Lethal catches him with an atomic drop. Lethal Combination nailed for 2. He takes an eternity to set up for the Macho Elbow…giving Young enough time to recover and catch him in the urinage backbreaker/lariat combo for 2. Lethal Injection COUNTERED with a German suplex which knocks Jay right on his neck. He clings desperately to the ropes but can’t stop Silas hitting the Finlay Roll. Headstand Arabian press misses…BACKFLIP Lethal Injection! Jay wins at 09:31
Rating – ** – Painfully slow to start, and it never really got out of the lower gears. But the live crowd really seemed to enjoy it which is all you can ask of an opening contest. Lethal has looked a little off the pace recently (even the commentators have noticed), but whilst he was going through the motions Silas was again working really hard and did his future ROH prospects no harm at all with another commendable in-ring showing.
Adam Cole vs Tommaso Ciampa
This is the first of the two ROH World Title tournament semi-finals. This is the battle of the two men you could consider ‘outside bets’ to win the whole thing. Whilst former World Champion Kevin Steen and #1 contender Michael Elgin are in the other semi, these two have quietly gone about their business – eventually reaching this stage in dominant fashion. Tommaso Ciampa has scored hard-hitting victories over Silas Young and Michael Bennett, whilst Adam Cole has controversially defeated Mark Briscoe and Jay Lethal. Who reaches the finals?
Amazingly, this is 24 hours before Tommaso’s wedding day. He clearly wants to make quick work of this – storming out of the gate and stomping the SH*T out of Cole in the corner. Adam hits back with a SUPERKICK! A jumping enzi sends Ciampa outside and Cole is on him again with a tope suicida! Not to be outdone Tommaso spears him INTO THE RAILS! Ole Ole Knee smashes! This is a wild opening couple of minutes. POWERBOMB THROUGH AN OPEN CHAIR INTO THE GUARDRAIL! Ciampa is on fire – and starts tearing up the protective mats to expose the concrete floor. SPINNING SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR! Cole is on the defensive and makes the sensible decision to dropkick the heavily bandaged and braced, surgically repaired knee of his opponent. He dropkicks it from under him, and that one move softens Tommaso up enough for him to hit the Shining Wizard and the DVD over the knee in quick succession. SLINGSHOT DDT ON THE APRON! Too early for the Florida Key though, and Tommaso catches him flush across the jaw with a knee strike. He hits a rack bomb for 2. Repeated knee smashes knock Cole loopy, and Ciampa scales the ropes looking for the AVALANCHE AIR RAID CRASH! He is unleashing everything he has but Cole just won’t go down! Project Ciampa from the top rope? Adam escapes that and SUPERKICKS THE KNEE! And seconds later he is slashing Ciampa’s knee across the ringpost, then applying the Figure 4 Leglock around it. Like a shark sensing blood he superkicks the knee again – and locks in the Figure 4! Another stomp on the bad knee into another Shining Wizard…and Tommaso is on the brink of defeat now. He slumps on his knees…but somehow MUSCLES Cole up as he looks for another Shining Wizard. DISCUS LARIAT! PROJECT CIAMPA! But he pauses momentarily to clutch at the knee…and that’s all it takes to give Cole enough time to kick out at 2! His knee gives way on him again, causing him to collapse headfirst into Cole’s Cradlebreaker! Figure 4 again, except this time Ciampa just sits there and slaps him in the face! COLE KNOCKS HIM OUT WITH BOOTS! Ciampa collapses and since both shoulders are down the ref has to count three! Cole advances at 13:51
Rating – **** – This was superb. Both men threw hell at each other in an absolute war, fought at astonishing speed. How Cole has enough gas in the tank to compete in another match is anyone’s guess. I loved the simple but engaging story-telling, with Ciampa looking to totally murder Cole as quickly as possible – only for Adam to survive that onslaught then start ruthlessly picking apart the bad knee. Ciampa’s selling was first rate, Cole again carefully tread the ‘tweener’ tightrope and ultimately advances to the final with an extremely convincing performance under his belt. With Tommaso getting married the next day (can you believe he put himself through this the night before his wedding?) they used the devastating effect of Cole’s knee assault to write him out of the TV tapings. It was that comprehensive. Steen and Elgin have a tough act to follow.
Michael Elgin vs Kevin Steen
This is the second semi-final, pitting arguably the two favourites for the tournament against each other. Elgin was #1 contender when Jay Briscoe vacated the belt, whilst Steen was one of the most dominant World Champions in Ring Of Honor history during his reign. But neither of them have had easy paths to this stage. Elgin came through an amazing battle with Paul London, and then avenged his loss to Karl Anderson earlier in the year. Steen, meanwhile, had to come through London’s long-time partner, friend and fellow 2002-era ROH-alum Brian Kendrick…then Roderick Strong. Last time these two met on pay-per-view it was in the incredible main event to last year’s Glory By Honor. Steen came out on top in that one. Elgin will be desperate to return the favour tonight, and advanced to the finals where Adam Cole is waiting.
Immediately we have a very different pace to the Cole/Ciampa match. This one starts slow, with Elgin giving Steen some gentle reminders of his immense power…followed by Kevin easily grounding Unbreakable and proving just how good a wrestler he can be too. But just like that the pace quickens. Package Piledriver blocked…Crippler Crossface blocked…and Steen slides out of the ring as Michael hooks him up for the Buckle Bomb. Elgin wants a test of strength, but once again it becomes Steen out-wrestling him and putting him on his ass. They get into a strike exchange, and this time it’s Mr Wrestling who ends up on his backside after a flurry of elbows. Black Hole Slam from Elgin – the first real heavy duty offence of the match coming at nearly 7 minutes. Steen instantly retaliates with the hanging DDT for 2. Flying crossbody from Steen! It’s too early for the F-5 it seems, and the two men end up colliding in the middle of the ring and going down heavily. Elgin is up first with a jumping enzi and a lariat. Dead-lift German blocked so he hits Never Ending Story lariats against the ropes. We get a succession of counters which ends with Michael driving Steen’s shoulder into the ringpost then going for the Crossface. Steen escapes to the apron then climbs up the ropes for the STEEN-TON BOMB! Package Piledriver blocked…sleeper suplex blocked too! ST-JOE! Corkscrew senton gets knees, and Steen hits the F-5! Cannonball misses…DEAD-LIFT GERMAN! ROLLED into the Crossface! Steen makes the bottom rope, and as we tick past 15-minutes the two heavyweights get back to their feet and start smashing each other with some brutal elbow smashes. They trade powerbombs. BUCKLE BOMB! Spiral Bomb COUNTERED TO THE SHARPSHOOTER! But his shoulder is still bothering him and he can’t maintain the hold. He can’t hit the sleeper suplex either and nearly succumbs to the Crossface again from there. DEATH BLOW! NO SOLD! LARIAT FROM STEEN! SLEEPER SUPLEX! Can the shoulder stand up to a Package Piledriver? Apparently not…SO IT’S ROLLING SLEEPER SUPLEXES INSTEAD! BACK FIST BY ELGIN! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER COUNTERED TO THE CRIPPLER CROSSFACE! STEEN TAPS! Elgin advances at 19:25
Rating – **** – In my opinion this one has been really undervalued by some critics. Coming after the Cole/Ciampa mayhem the crowd were obviously a little slow to get into this (a more cerebral battle) so perhaps that explains it. But personally I found this every bit as enjoyable as Tommaso and Adam. Sure the start was a little slow, but surely you can cut them a little slack considering the match that went before, the fact they were going 20 minutes and the fact that Elgin still has to wrestle again tonight. I thought what they did was extremely clever. You had Elgin easily over-powering Steen just as he did in Toronto. And you had Steen out-witting and seemingly out-wrestling Elgin, just like at Glory By Honor. But to show Unbreakable’s growth since 2012, here he was able to find a way to beat Kevin Steen. He rose above the mind games, the supposed superior wrestling skill and greater experience. He bullied, overpowered and finally attacked the shoulder until Steen just couldn’t take anymore. It wasn’t as exciting as Ciampa/Cole, and it wasn’t as good as their Glory By Honor 11 match. But this was still high quality stuff. I look forward to the finals.
Elgin may have won the match, but he looks in a bad state post-match. Several referees with ice packs, backroom personnel and Kevin Steen himself have to help Elgin to his feet and to the locker room. What will his physical condition be for the finals later tonight?
SIDENOTE – Here’s a question to you guys who read my reviews. What is your opinion of Delirious’ booking of this tournament? Was Elgin/Cole the right match to headline it? Is that the ‘big draw’ main event you’ve been waiting for? Or do you feel like the booking of this whole tournament has just been way too safe and predictable – and only saved because of some exceptional in-ring performances from Elgin, Steen, Cole and Ciampa plus the likes of London, Anderson and Mark Briscoe in the earlier rounds?
Forever Hooligans vs American Wolves – IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
These two teams have traded wins through this year in Ring Of Honor. And interestingly, the last time we saw them in the same ring it was at All Star Extravaganza 5 when the Wolves managed to beat Romero and Koslov to end their brief tenure as ROH Tag Champions. If they can repeat that feat tonight then Davey Richards gets his ticket back into NJPW as he’ll be one half of their IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champions. Or will the Hooligans get some vengeance for what was a crushing defeat – to lose the ROH straps in their very first title defence.
Edwards starts with Romero, which is just as well considering Davey spent Koslov’s entire rendition of the Russian national anthem pelvic thrusting and gyrating. Neither really gains an advantage during an elongated ground-based exchange so we do now see Richards and Koslov square off. The pace is a lot quicker between those two, with both of them taking the opportunity to throw in some needless flips as they wrestle to another stalemate. The Hooligans pitch the Wolves outside…but they then miss stereo pescados and fall victim to stereo elbow suicidas by Richards and Edwards. They then lift Romero up into the Hooligans-trademark charging knee strike…except this time Koslov is the victim. Alex retaliates by illegally kicking Edwards in the back of the head, giving Rocky the chance to tag out. The Hooligans start isolating Eddie, with Koslov applying the hanging Mexican surfboard in the ropes. Next comes the annoying corner lariats into fake fight sequence from them. Thankfully that’s about it for the Hooligans on offence for the time-being, as Edwards blasts Rocky with the Backpack Stunner and gets the hot tag to Davey. Machine Gun kicks from him cause his former NRC partner to collapse in the corner. Alex dives into the ring to help his partner, but as they look for that charging knee strike again all they get is a jumping enzi out of the corner from Eddie. Romero blocks the double Alarm Clock, then ducks his head causing Eddie to sock his own partner with another enzi strike. Koslov drops Davey with an inverted suplex for 2 then sizes him up for the Cossack stomps. Finally the Hooligans hit their elevated knee strike, but seconds later Richards has countered a kick attempt from Koslov into the Trailer Hitch. ANKLELOCK ON ROMERO TOO! Rocky starts tapping, but as he’s not legal it doesn’t count…and Koslov desperately crawls to the ropes. He then climbs the ropes and stands there for an ETERNITY whilst the remaining three participants finally position themselves for Koslov to hit a frog splash for 2. Burning Hammer blocked into the double Alarm Clock…and the Wolves climb the turnbuckles. DOUBLE double stomp gets 2! They look for the Doomsday Lungblower that beat the Hooligans in Toronto, but this time Koslov counters with a rana. SLINGSHOT SPRINGBOARD SUPER RANA BY ROCKY! RUSSIAN STAR PRESS BY KOSLOV! Eddie breaks the count at the last possible moment. The Hooligans win the match and retain their belts with the Contract Killer at 19:43
Rating – *** – The Wolves/Hooligans match at All Star Extravaganza was definitely the high point for this rivalry. These four guys just don’t seem to have a natural chemistry together. Everything they did here seemed so slow, disjointed and incoherent. These are all extremely experienced workers, so there is no explanation for why it was taking them ages to set up relatively simple spots, or botching what appeared to be straight-forward combos that they use in every match. All four seemed a step off their game, and were badly exposed. It wasn’t bad, and you can’t fault them for workrate (these were all sweating buckets so had to be working damn hard), but it just wasn’t clicking tonight. Despite some bright moments, ultimately this amounted to little more than a lengthy, cumbersome, lethargic and entirely formulaic tag match. I’d go so far as to call it the worst of their ROH matches together.
INTERMISSION – With the second half about to kick off Barrister RD Evans and Veda Scott make their way to the ring, despite not being booked. Evans is still selling the broken fingers he sustained at the hands of Outlaw Inc. He wants to stage a sit-in, protesting the ‘injustice’ of his recent treatment at Ring Of Honor events…but is interrupted (before they even get a chair in the ring, another bush-league error) by Adam Page. We have an impromptu match…
RD Evans vs Adam Page
At this stage you wouldn’t have seen the Barrister compete in singles matches in ROH too often. However, he has become more and more active inside the ring as 2013 has progressed, and despite the fingers suffered at the hands of Homicide and Eddie Kingston it appears he’s talked himself into a tough encounter with promising rookie Adam Page.
As you’d expect, Evans tries to take a cheap shot at Page before the bell. Sadly for him, he gets nowhere and is soon being beaten around the ring by Adam. Fans are so uninterested in this they start duelling ‘take your hat off’ versus ‘keep your hat on’ chants aimed at Page and his baseball cap. They then boo when it comes off as he drops RD with an atomic drop. The Barrister snatches the hat, puts it on his head…and is promptly despatched straight back to the canvas with a powerslam. Inverted Tombstone wins it for Page at 01:50
Rating – DUD – Not sure what the point of this was. RD and Veda are relatively entertaining, but I don’t think this did anyone any favours. The live crowd weren’t interested in seeing this match at all and didn’t really react to anything the wrestlers were doing at all. If ROH want to get Page over, I’d suggest letting him show his skills and produce some good matches. Ring Of Honor fans value workrate and strong in-ring performances above pointless shenanigans like this.
Ricky Marvin vs Roderick Strong
This is the first time Marvin has appeared in ROH in the US, although I believe he did make an appearance at one of the Japanese dates a few years back. He’s been brought in as a special attraction tonight, and faces ‘Mr ROH’ Roderick Strong in what should be an extremely competitive match. I’ve not seen him for a few years, and he has seriously piled on the pounds. I’ll be interested to see if he’s lost a step inside the ring now he’s carrying around a relatively sizeable gut.
I’m not confirming that one of these two guys are lying about his weight. However, there is no way on earth that Roderick is a full 16lbs heavier than Marvin. His belly makes his appearance slightly comical, but there is a beautiful, crisp snap to everything he does in the opening exchanges with Mr ROH. Roddy sensibly appears to be trying to slow Ricky down, but is promptly dispatched outside the ring for a REBOUND headscissors from the apron to the floor. Next Strong thinks about a striking game, and that pans out more successfully as he drops Marvin on his ass with elbow strikes then catches him into a cradle backbreaker for 2. Ricky cranks up the pace again to deliver a handspring elbow, followed by a slingshot into a springboard moonsault. Another headscissors catapults Strong outside again…for a DOUBLE SPRINGBOARD CORKSCREW PLANCHA! The camera work was AWFUL on that by the way. Ricky is on the top rope again…and this time he SPRINTS ACROSS THE TOP ROPE INTO A MISSILE DROPKICK! But the high risk offence seems to have caught up with him, as Marvin starts limping around favouring one of his legs. Strong pounces to deliver the Olympic Slam. Urinage backbreaker countered with a crucifix pin though, so there’s life in the old dog yet. But Marvin collapses into the corner straight afterwards, and stays there until he’s forcibly dragged out into the urinage backbreaker for 2. Somehow Marvin finds the fortitude to go strike for strike with Strong, but eventually he slumps to the mat alongside Roddy after landing a jumping enziguri. Last Rites gets a nearfall for the Mexican. He thinks about another top rope move, only this time he can’t climb the turnbuckles quickly enough and is caught in a colossal superplex. Death By Roderick COUNTERED with a reverse rana! Pride Rock gets another nearfall for Marvin. Has he got anything left? FROG SPLASH MISSES! He crunches his knees into the mat then staggers into the DEATH BY RODERICK/SICK KICK COMBO! Gibson Driver wins it for Strong at 11:55
Rating – *** – Good match, but a horrible silent crowd who reacted to pretty much nothing. Physically it looks like Marvin has seen better days. He seemed a little slow and a real shadow of his early/mid-00’s heyday. But, that said, he was still easily good enough to wrestle a ten minute exhibition match against somebody as good as Roderick Strong. He hit all his spots clean as a whistle, including some stunning aerial dives in the middle portion of the match. To me, however, I liked that they actually tried to tell a story around the spots. Roderick started the match trying to slow down and/or out-punch his opponent. Marvin needed the speed and aerial moves to be successful, and it was that which became his downfall as he injured his knee on a big dive and had to slow down – effectively falling straight into Strong’s trap. At the time the streaming issues on GoFightLive meant I saw very little of this, and wasn’t too excited about what I did see. I’m delighted to say I really missed out and this was actually really decent second time around.
Nigel McGuinness enters the ring next, to bring out BJ Whitmer for an update on the neck injury he sustained at All Star Extravaganza. BJ’s tone has you thinking the news isn’t good, particularly as he starts his speech by thanking those that have influenced his career (Gabe gets a mention, along with a decent pop, which is interesting). He confirms he is ending his in-ring career and gets a touching standing ovation. However, before he goes, he wants Jimmy Jacobs to join him in the ring. Jimmy hops the rails and joins him as they start to tear up. As his last act in ROH, Whitmer asks Nigel to give Jacobs an opportunity to earn his job back. Nigel agrees, and tells Jimmy to show up tomorrow at the television tapings.
Bobby Fish/Kyle O’Reilly/Matt Taven/Michael Bennett vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander/Tadarius Thomas/ACH
This one should be frantic and fun to watch if they get enough time to showcase the immense amount of skill contained within this group. I can’t help but feel it would benefit Adrenaline RUSH and C&C if they were on opposing teams, to help emphasise the differences between them, but this should still be a blast. Both the babyface teams are in the running for the Tag Titles, and the appearance of Matt Taven also brings the TV Title into play. ACH has already challenged for that belt once, whilst Tadarius lost to Taven in the finals of the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament. The x-factor in the match is Bennett. He has no real allegiances, and seemingly no opportunity to push himself into championship reckoning as he teams with the guys with the belts. His presence in this one also means we get the alluring prospect of Maria Kanellis alongside the Hoopla Hotties in the arena! And it’s a triple threat of Hoopla Hotties too as Kasey Rae has joined Seleziya and Scarlett tonight.
Maria joins commentary and admonishes the Hoopla Hotties for being scantily clad. This should be fun. Bobby Fish soon arrives too, and removes Kevin Kelly from commentary so he cam commentate with her instead. In the ring Cedric works circles around Taven, who retreats into the corner to bring Bennett in. Maria accuses the opposition team of being in a gang. Is that racist? Caprice is in as gang leader, leading his troops into a four-way assault on O’Reilly for 2. Maria continues the hilarity as she slates both ACH and Fish simultaneously as they work to a stalemate. ACH rocks Bennett with a dropkick, much to Maria’s disappointment, only for Truth Martini to crack him across the ankles with the Book Of Truth. The heel team try to isolate ACH. And by the heel team, I mean that Bennett and Taven stand and watch whilst reDRagon do all the work. It continues that way until Bobby decides to take another commentary break and chats happily to Maria and Kevin whilst Tadarius takes Kyle apart with the capoeira strikes. Alexander hits a full nelson facebuster on Bennett, as Coleman dishes out elbow smashes to everyone he can find. Including his own partner! The Hoopla Hotties and Maria try to distract the babyfaces…and we nearly get four-way face-rape! Instead the heels save their ladies. Caprice hits the Mind Trip on O’Reilly, as Cedric belts Taven with the Detonation Kick. BACK DROP DRIVER BY FISH! AIR JORDAN CORKSCREW DIVE TO THE FLOOR BY ACH! TD saves Coleman from Chasing The Dragon! OVERTIME! Cedric pins O’Reilly at 12:25
Rating – *** – Considering this was nothing more than midcard filler, I’m not sure I’ve been more entertained by anything else on the show so far. The guest commentary slots from Maria and Bobby (with Kevin Kelly as the ‘straight guy’) were hysterical and really carried the match. Inside the ring it passed in a blur of visually pleasing spots, with only ACH and reDRagon really standing out from the pack. At least C&C pick up a big win and look briefly like credible title challengers again before their inevitable title shot is used as the sideshow for some other ‘more important’ feud.
reDRagon don’t take defeat well and promptly assault C&C. It turns out Coleman and Alexander’s push is already a sideshow to something more important: Outlaw Inc. are here. They quickly clear the ring with their creepy presence. Eddie Kingston tells reDRagon, and the future World Champion that they are coming for all the belts…
Adam Cole vs Michael Elgin – ROH World Title Tournament Final
This is the final many predicted when we started down the road to replacing Jay Briscoe as World Champion via a tournament. Michael Elgin was #1 contender and top pick, but Adam Cole has been popular for a long time, and despite struggling with his moral compass and his won/loss record so far in 2013, many had Cole as a strong contender to join him in the finals. Now it really is tough to pick a winner. On paper Unbreakable remains the favourite. But his path to the final has been significantly more difficult, having already survived hard-hitting 4*+ wars with Paul London, Karl Anderson and Kevin Steen. Elgin also had to be carried to the locker room for medical attention after beating Steen earlier. Cole wrestled first, had a shorter match with Ciampa than Steen/Elgin and hasn’t had quite as physical a road here. Cole is healthier, quicker, and potentially has more gas left in the tank than his bigger, stronger adversary…so who leaves Philadelphia as the 19th ROH World Champion?
Cary Silkin, Joe Koff and Prince Nana are at ringside as judges to decide a winner if we have a time limit draw. Are you kidding me? If that had happened I would be done with this company there and then. Elgin looks significantly more wounded than Cole from the bell, but spends the opening minutes laying down a marker with his massive power advantage. The pace is brutally slow, which works in the favour of a powerful but fatigued and injured worker like Unbreakable. But after four minutes of methodically paced dominance, Elgin makes a mistake. He attempts his stalling suplex, and immediately drops Adam and starts feeling his injured neck. It’s a window of opportunity Cole doesn’t miss – nailing him with a neckbreaker in seconds. Snapmares, knees to the spine and cravats come next to pile on the pressure on the injured body part. Hell, even when Elgin drops Cole with a back suplex it’s he that folds over in a heap holding the back of his head rather than the victim. Cole climbs up his back, clinging to a sleeper hold whilst driving all his weight down onto the neck. Elgin fights out of the corner with the ST-Joe…then sits on the mat next to his opponent unable to capitalise. Black Hole Slam does follow eventually but, as Nigel points out, he’s struggling to do enough damage to put Cole away, whilst getting increasingly worn out and injured himself. Adam catches him with the Shining Wizard seconds later and he’s on the back foot once again.
Cole hits a jumping enzi from the floor, but Elgin DRAGS HIM OVER THE TOP ROPE INTO ROLLING GERMANS! TURNBUCKLE GERMAN! DVD OVER THE KNEE by Cole! He absorbed more brutal offensive moves there, and went to the neck again to drop his much larger opponent to the deck. They trade strikes, breaking when Elgin hits a SNAP German suplex into a charging lariat for 2. What will happen first – will Elgin batter Cole into the ground, or will Cole survive the onslaught long enough for Elgin to succumb to exhaustion and injury? Elgin thinks about the dead-lift superplex, which seems a completely foolish move. He is rightly punished with a sunset bomb and another Shining Wizard for 2. Suplex front slam out of nowhere by Elgin! This is on a knife-edge! Elgin dropkicks Cole as he tries a slingshot manoeuvre. DEAD-LIFT AVALANCHE FALCON ARROW! BUCKLE BOMB! COLE NO SELLS…SO ELGIN BACK FISTS THE SH*T OUT OF HIM! He hit him so hard that Cole falls out of the ring and underneath the judges (lol) table. Unbreakable retrieves Cole, and they wind up fighting on the apron balanced precariously close to the judging position. Elgin tries a back drop driver, which Cole COUNTERS to a cross-body. THEY BOTH GO THROUGH THE TABLE!
Cole slides into the ring and smiles. He wants to win by count-out just like with Roderick Strong! Elgin barely beats the count, and when he does he slides in to an irate Cole superkicking him IN THE NECK! FLORIDA KEY…FOR 2! AWESOMEBOMB BY ELGIN! BUCKLE BOMB! COLE NO SELLS TO A JACK-KNIFE PIN FOR 2! DEATH BLOW! BACK FIST! SPIRAL BOMB! But the ref gets bumped in the process and you can literally hear the crowd gasp in frustration at such sh*tty cheap booking in such an important match. Elgin had it won right there, but Todd Sinclair is still shaking the cobwebs loose. Cole celebrates by dropkicking an unsuspecting Elgin’s knees out from under him then slapping on the Figure 4. Elgin escapes to the apron. SLINGSHOT DDT ON THE APRON! CRADLEBREAKER ON THE FLOOR! Elgin can barely walk, his neck is shot to pieces and he’s missed his big opportunity to win the title thanks to a poorly placed official. Does he have anything left to give? PANAMA SUNRISE NAILED BY COLE! FOR 2! That’s Cole’s version of the Canadian Destroyer if you’ve never seen it before. Michael is basically dead-weight now, lumbering across the ring only for Cole to kick his knees out whenever he gets close. Panama Sunrise again…COUNTERED! CROSSFACE! He isn’t strong enough to retain the hold! ROLLING GERMANS BY COLE! FLORIDA KEY AGAIN! HE WINS! Cole is the World Champion at 26:30!
Rating – ****1/2 – I rather fear I’m going to get some grief for this rating, but this might even have been my favourite Ring Of Honor match all year. I’ve hated the booking that got us here, I hate Delirious and Sinclair for what they’ve done to the lineage of the title. However, rarely do you watch a wrestling match and have everything feel so entirely EQUAL. This felt like a huge match, almost entirely because you really felt like it could go either way. From a non-kayfabe perspective, there were massive merits in giving the belt to either guy. And in the match itself, the story they went with had you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Elgin’s advantage in terms of size and speed was systematically stripped away by the brilliant Adam Cole. But such was the skill of Elgin that you really believed he STILL had enough left in the tank that he might be able to win the thing anyway. Cole was the ‘villain’ without ever being a heel, without really being jeered by the fans, and without using any heelish tricks. And Elgin, despite being significantly bigger, was equally superb in the role of underdog, of sympathetic babyface. He sold the neck believably without being over the top and without limiting his ability to hit big moves. They went for the best part of half an hour, and you never once felt ‘I know what is going to happen’. It was close from bell to bell. Maybe the live crowd didn’t get on board with it as quickly as they’d have liked. And the GoFightLive issues meant the people watching the stream missed out on all the subtleties too. But watching on DVD I really appreciated the masterful nuances and understated approach to this one. I’ll slam the booking, SBG and the decision to strip Jay Briscoe of the belt until the day I step away from this company, but I believe in giving credit where it’s due, and Michael Elgin and Adam Cole produced a wonderful main event which I think is being really under-appreciated by a great many people. With a better crowd and without that irritating ref bump spot (I think the negatives of that spot far outweighed the positives) I’d have gone higher on the rating.
Jay Briscoe comes to the ring, and proves to be a man of his word as he mournfully hands over his belt to Adam Cole, shakes his hand then walks away. ADAM COLE SUPERKICKS HIM IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD! Elgin has barely recovered from the match, and he gets to his feet only to be waffled by Cole and his newly won championship belt. The heel turn is finally cemented, and Kevin Kelly screams himself silly as the show fades out. GREAT ending…
Tape Rating – *** – This is a tough show to rate. The three tournament matches were exceptional, but everything else felt like an afterthought, and Hooligans/Wolves felt really flat compared to their manic previous meeting in Toronto – making it a considerable disappointment. The crowd in the second half didn’t do the show any favours either. Ultimately, you need to see this one as the main event was awesome, and since there have only been 19 World Champions so far, you may as well see the new champion crowd. But honestly, within days you’ll have forgotten everything about this show other than Tommaso Ciampa, Kevin Steen, Michael Elgin and Adam Cole (plus maybe Jay Briscoe). In a show which runs north of three hours I’m not necessarily sure that’s enough to take it into ‘great show’ territory.
Top 3 Matches
3) Michael Elgin vs Kevin Steen (****)
2) Adam Cole vs Tommaso Ciampa (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Michael Elgin (****1/2)