ROH 345 – State Of The Art – 8th February 2014
The clock is ticking down to ROH’s 12th Anniversary Show, and this live event/partial TV taping is the final stopping point along the way. Most of ROH’s biggest stars are here (by that, I mean newly returned star attractions Chris Hero and AJ Styles are NOT in attendance), and there are some juicy matches on the bill. Adam Cole is promised to answer Jay Briscoe’s challenge to a ‘Real World Title’ Match, Adrenaline RUSH step into the Proving Ground with reDRagon, all three members of The Decade will compete, and we have a four-way Texas Tornado match pitting Jay Lethal, Kevin Steen, Tommaso Ciampa and Michael Elgin against one another. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino are at ringside for commentary from San Antonio, TX.
Jay Briscoe’s music hits as the show opens…and the utter horror Kevin Kelly displays at this break from ‘the format’ is hysterical. Jay doesn’t want to wait any longer and calls Cole out for their match right now.
Jay Briscoe vs Adam Cole
This is supposedly for Jay’s ‘Real World Title’, so presumably if he loses he’ll hand the belt over to Cole? And if he wins, you’d also presume that ROH would have to acknowledge that as a victory over the actual champion and grant him a shot at the ROH World Title? This is a heated feud stretching back to Death Before Dishonor last year, when Cole won the belt Jay was forced to vacate then kicked him in the back of the head after he’d reluctantly handed the belt over.
Cole misses with an attempt to lay Briscoe out with his ROH belt…and is taken straight to the floor with a Cactus clothesline. A brawl on the outside obviously favours Jay and he emphasises his dominance with a suplex on the apron. High-flying, however, is Cole’s domain, so when Briscoe looks for a tope suicida the World Champion is on hand to cut him off with a jumping enzi. It’s only temporary though, with Jay hitting a full nelson slam. A double stomp to the ribs is landed next to drive the wind out of Adam’s sails. Cole fails with a sunset flip out of the corner…but lands on his feet and superkicks the legs out from under Jay. The knee is rammed into the ringpost too, opening up a clear injury to Briscoe’s leg. German superplex blocked…for Briscoe to NAIL a frog splash, which injures himself in the process of executing the move. Figure 4 blocked so Cole hits the ropes and wipes Jay out with the Shining Wizard. Cradlebreaker scores for 2, and it weakens Jay enough for the champ to lock in his Figure 4 Leglock. Briscoe makes the ropes and then has to fight off the Florida Key, planting his opponent with a Death Valley Driver. Jay Driller blocked…SUPERKICK by Cole! TWIST OF FATE! Corino thinks it’s over, but Briscoe gets a shoulder up. Cole is in a rage and picks up Jay’s title belt. Todd Sinclair stops him from using it…superkick by Briscoe! JAY DRILLER! Jay wins at 11:22
Rating – *** – Solid opening match, although I’d have liked to have seen then get a little more time to really expand on the heat between them. This is supposed to be the central feud in ROH right now. I understand it’s not the final showdown, but I really think they should have stretched to around 15-minimum just to build up the drama a little more. Some of the spots were good here, but there were really rushed for time, and just didn’t have enough time to truly sell the bigger moments of the contest.
Romantic Touch vs Caprice Coleman
It hasn’t exactly been a successful start to Romantic Touch’s ROH career. He’s short on wins, but has grabbed the attention of Veda Scott – who really isn’t happy at his appearance when he obviously is Rhett Titus. Here he looks to bounce back from recent defeats to Andrew Everett and Michael Bennett against Caprice, who himself is at a career crossroads after splitting up the C&C WrestleFactory.
Corino shares the rumour that Veda Scott isn’t here tonight because she’s been ‘worn out’ by the Romantic Touch. Coleman is far too good for Titus in the early going and hardly breaks a sweat as he outwrestles him. Bless-TO gets 2…and maybe Caprice is taking it too easy as he turns his back and eats a rebound elbow strike from Touch. Corino is bored, so starts asking Kevin Kelly why he wasn’t hired to commentate with him in the WWF back in the day. Snugglemonkey Flip gets 2 for RT. He then mounts Coleman from behind for a rather suggestive version of the bearhug. Coleman escapes for a spinning axe kick. Trinity (rolling northern lights) nailed next, with Titus being so un-athletic he nearly gets dropped on his neck not once but twice. Caprice doesn’t do much better as he barely makes Rhett’s shoulders with his attempt at the Leap Of Faith super rana. He lands on his face Romantic hops down to give him a slingshot back suplex. Leap Of Faith scores second time of asking, and Coleman picks up the victory with the ‘Sky Splitter’ at 09:24
Rating – DUD – Another terrible match coming out of Rhett’s return to ROH. Caprice is decent, but he was moving slowly and didn’t seem at the top of his game here, and when he’s in the ring with a plodding, clumsy mess like Titus he really needed to be. I don’t actually mind the Romantic Touch gimmick. It’s perfectly fine for little comedy spots and the like. But why does he keep getting booked in 10-minute straight wrestling matches which horribly expose how limited a worker he is? And here’s what else I don’t understand, what is it about Rhett Titus which means he keeps getting a spot in ROH, but they decided to let fellow ROH Dojo graduates the Bravado Brothers leave, even though they were more over, are more entertaining and at this point are probably better in the ring too?
Raymond Rowe vs BJ Whitmer
After impressing by making it to the finals of the Top Prospect Tournament, Rowe gets a follow up booking as we’re in Texas (where he now resides apparently). He can make a real impression and possibly earn a permanent spot if he defeats ROH veteran BJ Whitmer this evening. In turn, BJ (as part of The Decade) won’t take kindly to a tough newcomer, and will want to beat some respect into him. Roderick Strong and Jimmy Jacobs accompany Whitmer to the ring.
No handshake from Whitmer because he doesn’t think Rowe has earned his respect yet. They have a tense mat exchange to start, where it’s clear that Ray is an even match for his experienced opponent. Finally BJ rakes the eyes to put him in the ascendancy. He seems to think he’s wrestling on Monday night, as his offence consists almost entirely of punches and chinlocks for the next couple of minutes. Rowe breaks the cycle with a running double knee strike and lays into him with a flurry of his really stiff strikes. Spinebuster gets 2 but BJ is soon back up to put a boot through his face. Exploder ’98 blocked…Wrist Clutch Exploder blocked…Death Rowe blocked…so Ray hits an OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX for 2! Whitmer looks for another running boot and is muscled into a powerbomb for another nearfall. They trade elbow strikes…and neither backs down! WRIST CLUTCH EXPLODER! Whitmer finally puts Rowe down at 10:09
Rating – ** – This one ended in terrific fashion, as the two big hard-hitters dropped bombs on each other. It started out ok too, but Whitmer’s heat segment in the middle portion dragged the whole thing down for me. To defend BJ, he’s not actually wrestled as a heel in singles matches all that much in ROH. Even for a super-experienced guy like him working an unfamiliar opponent in an unfamiliar role isn’t the easiest proposition. He couldn’t decide whether he wanted to work the crowd to get heat, work traditional cheating ‘heel tactics’ to draw heat that way, or just try to work the match in his usual fashion…eventually bouncing between the three into a flaccid and underwhelming middle ground.
Whitmer gets into a verbal altercation with Corino, as Jacobs takes to the microphone to complain about guys like Hero and AJ coming back to a rapturous ovation whilst they get no disrespect for never leaving (except when Jimmy quit…and worked DGUSA/Evolve…and when BJ was released for like three years). They earned their spots on the roster taking their licks from the likes of CM Punk, Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson…and Jimmy thinks there are too many ‘disrespectful punks’ in the locker room who have it too easy now. Like Cedric Alexander, who ‘stole’ Roderick’s move in Pittsburgh – and that’s who Jimmy wants to face right now…
Jimmy Jacobs vs Cedric Alexander
The Decade already weren’t a fan of Alexander, as a young guy doing flashy spots and getting the adulation of the fans without ‘earning it’. Roderick Strong became even more upset with him when he used his ‘Lumbar Check’ finisher to beat Andrew Everett at Wrestling’s Finest. Since the Lumbar Check is a backbreaker modification, Roddy thinks that’s his ‘gimmick’, and Cedric shouldn’t steal his moves. With Strong still healing up from the neck injury suffered against AJ Styles, tonight it’s Jimmy Jacobs who wants to teach Ced a lesson.
Alexander really hams up his entrance, flipping into the ring and doing as much posing to the crowd as possible – leaving Jacobs looking thoroughly unimpressed. Cedric does another flip before hitting a couple of armdrags…so Jimmy SLAPS HIM IN THE FACE! He then drags him into the corner for a succession of stomps, looking to rough him up in the opening minutes. Cedric dares to reverse it, pissing Jimmy off so much he tries to break his ribs with repeated double stomps. He is as physical as possible – dropping Cedric on his neck with back suplexes then putting him in the corner to boot his head into the ringpost. He only gets some recovery time when Jacobs’ attention is diverted by Strong arguing with a fan at ringside. More slaps to the face follow…only this time Alexander slaps him back! REPEATED headbutts drive Jacobs out of the ring…and he wipes him out with a HEAT SEEKING MISSILE! Impact Explosion Dropkicks next (is he doing Austin Aries moves to piss Strong off?), but just as he starts to build momentum he is dragged to the mat in the End Time. Rebound enzi misses for Ced, and Jacobs hits him with the rebound cutter for 2. Contra Code COUNTERED to a flatliner for 2! Alexander points at Roddy…THEN HITS THE LUMBAR CHECK! Strong is livid and jumps on the apron trying to get at him. SPEAR by Jacobs – giving him the win at 10:39
Rating – *** – Jimmy just gave a polar opposite performance to BJ Whitmer there. Unlike BJ, Jacobs is a charismatic guy and an absolute master of psychology and carrying a character in the ring. He NAILED The Decade’s motivation with that performance. His facials were brilliant, at times he almost teased breaking kayfabe by looking unhappy to sell Cedric’s moves. He did all he possibly could to make this feel like an angry veteran fighting a disrespectful young kid. Alexander cleverly played his role as well. He was massively more animated than he normally is during his entrance, very obviously drawing attention to himself with flips, skipping around the ring, smiling and so forth. All of that gave the impression that he is cocky and really contributed to the story they wanted to tell. I am loving The Decade as a group so far, and this is one of their best matches to this point in 2014.
Cedric wants a handshake, but Roderick grabs the microphone and berates him for not respecting locker room traditions and stealing moves from a ten year veteran. He wants Ced to show his respect and desire to earn a spot by unlacing Jimmy’s boots for him. Jacobs chimes in with a great story about getting a swirly from CM Punk and Adam Pearce for good measure. Alexander refuses, so The Decade toss his bags out of the locker room. He’s no longer allowed in the back
SIDENOTE – This segment was superb. I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best in-ring promo segments they’ve done in years. It was compelling viewing, and The Decade have wasted very little time in becoming one of the most interesting parts of the ROH landscape in 2014.
Alex Reigns vs Weezy Woo
This is billed as a ‘local showcase’ match, so presumably these are guys who have impressed at one of Kevin Kelly and Delirious’ ROH Dojo training seminars and are local enough to take up this booking. Reigns looks like a scaled down version of Raymond Rowe, and his opponent has potentially the worst ring-name in professional wrestling history.
Even the referee is a local unsigned official. Reigns tries to use his size advantage…but Woo continually fights back using his athleticism. Alex shuts him down with a pop-up punch to the midsection for 2. He puts a knee into the stomach next, followed by European uppercuts to the same body part. He then steals Ray Rowe’s Death Rowe – flipping it into a knee to the stomach instead. Weezy hits some terrible-looking kicks…and somehow this match has now stretched into a sixth minute. They botch a catapult spot next, which gets the live crowd begging for the match to end. Woo wins with a flipping neckbreaker at 06:55
Rating – DUD – Seven minutes? Seriously ROH? You only found eleven minutes for the scheduled main event (Briscoe/Cole) earlier – but this gets seven? Dreadful, lousy, appalling booking. Reigns was the better of the two, but that’s mostly because Weezy looked completely crap.
RD Evans arrives, with the ‘New Streak’ currently standing at 29-0. He has his own referee in tow, and the streak soon becomes 31-0 as he pins Reigns and Weezy in quick succession. He proclaims that his winning streak is so unprecedented that he should be called ‘Mr ROH’. That kind of gimmick infringement cannot go unpunished, and back to the ring comes Roderick Strong. He points out Cedric Alexander (who is legitimately getting changed on a stage at the side of the building, having been banned from the locker room)…and challenges Evans to a match
RD Evans vs Roderick Strong
The New Streak stands at 31-0, and hasn’t been in this much jeopardy since we saw Michael Elgin challenge him on television a few weeks ago. Strong wants to send another message to disrespectful upstarts not following locker room traditions, whilst RD wants it to become 32-0…
Corino says Evans has beaten (Horace) Hogan and ‘a bear named Snowflake’ this week as part of the Streak. Cedric Alexander hops the rails and joins commentary, as in the ring Strong hits a cradle backbreaker for 2. Surfboard applied, and the Streak looks in trouble. RD climbs the ropes but misses a diving headbutt, then eats the Olympic Slam for another nearfall. Apron back suplex countered with a jumping heel kick to the floor….so Strong gives him the half nelson into the SIDE OF THE RING instead. Roddy gets into another argument with Cedric, nearly costing him the match. Thankfully he saves the match by DESTROYING Evans with a jumping knee. He spits on Ced (twice)…who then comes in the ring to throw a corkscrew enzi. Strong ducks, and it connects with RD! That has to be a disqualification! The ‘New Streak’ continues, RD wins at 07:39
Rating – * – Nowhere near as entertaining as the Evans/Elgin squash from TV. This was longer and nowhere near as entertaining. That said, the finish, with a continuation of the Cedric/Strong feud was really fun. Alexander has been producing excellent in-ring showings for some time so it’s great to see him finally getting a real storyline to run with.
Strong and Cedric continue brawling after the bell, and the place is going NUTS. They brawl to the back as a disorientated RD starts to celebrate going 32-0. The Streak is crazy over…
Michael Bennett vs Mark Briscoe
Since losing the Stretcher Match to Kevin Steen at Final Battle, Bennett has been successfully rebounding by picking up wins using manoeuvres liberated from the moveset of one of Maria’s ex-lovers. The plan here will be to continue that rebuilding process with a victory over an ROH veteran.
Briscoe decides he’s going to wrestle in a cowboy hat, and is furious when Bennett knocks it off his head. He chops Michael out of the ring, and almost drops him on his neck with a back suplex. Vertical suplex on the floor next before he tries to beat him up with a cowbell. Todd Sinclair steals it as he prepares to strike allowing Bennett to hit the Box Office Smash. Corino wants company expenses for losing $10 when he beat Mark with the $10 Punch in San Antonio last year. Mongolian chops from Briscoe – into a slingshot double stomp then a running dropkick through the ropes to the floor. Cactus Elbow avoided so Mark hits a tomahawk chop from the top! Urinage blocked…but the rolling DVD isn’t. Maria stops him from hitting the Froggy Bow…as Bennett levels him with a chair. Go Back To Japan (Anaconda Vice) applied for the win at 09:11
Rating – * – This wasn’t very good at all. It was 90% generic Mark Briscoe comedy offence spots, which (to a point) serve a purpose in entertaining live crowd but really don’t contribute to telling a coherent match with any kind of psychological depth. Bennett wins, but got his ass kicked for most of the match and ends it with CM Punk heat. There doesn’t seem to be masses of benefit to him in that
Bennett grabs a microphone and criticises ROH for booking their World Champion into a match against ‘crazy rednecks’ like Jay Briscoe. He lays out a challenge for the ‘Real World Title’ so he can turn it into the ‘Title Of Power’ – and Mark’s big brother is soon out there for a brawl. Adam Cole blindsides Jay…and it quickly breaks down into a brawl with the Briscoes fighting off Cole and Bennett. I think this is the first time the Cole/Bennett/Maria group was featured
reDRagon vs Adrenaline RUSH
This isn’t the first time ACH and Tadarius Thomas have stepped into the Proving Ground with Fish and O’Reilly. They lost a (majorly disappointing) match to them at Live & Let Die last year and haven’t really come close to threatening the Tag Championships ever since. Will tonight be the night they finally beat the champions and earn a clean title shot?
Bobby isn’t in a hurry to step into the ring with the home-state favourite ACH. reDRagon don’t find a way to suppress his energy in the opening few minutes…and it’s a similar story as O’Reilly and TD run through an electric near-miss kick sequence. Tadarius gets the better of it with a pivoting capoeira kick from the canvas, putting O’Reilly on the mat and giving Adrenaline RUSH the chance to isolate him. ACH dishes out slaps to both champions…then hides behind Thomas to pop up into a dropkick on Fish. Tadarius to the top rope…but he gets shoved off almost into the LAPS of Corino and Kelly. In fact Kevin seems to have taken a bit of a bang (and really doesn’t look happy about it). reDRagon have turned the match around and now have the opportunity to work over Tadarius. Most of the attention is drawn to the apron where Bobby is getting into arguments with multiple ringside fans at the same time (and drawing massive heat as a result). Eventually TD rolls into a sliding roundhouse kick on him, but finds Kyle knocking his partner off the apron before he can make the hot tag. Seconds later he does get said hot tag…only for the ref to be distracted by the champions and overrule it. It’s third time lucky though, as Thomas kicks Bobby away and reaches out to ACH. Flatliner/Cutter combo on both champions gets 2! He then gives Fish a flatliner into the apron and a big pescado. Slingshot cutter gets another nearfall! O’Reilly drops ACH on his neck with the Regalplex…so back in comes Tadarius. reDRagon unload strikes on him, followed by a backbreaker/knee drop combo. HUGE flying double missile dropkick by ACH! Saito suplex by Fish! Swinging neckbreaker by Thomas! O’Reilly knocks him out with Axe & Smash…then turns into a DISCUS LARIAT from ACH! BOTCHED TOPE CON HILO BY THOMAS! He got his feet caught in the ropes and almost landed on his head! ACH HITS THE SUPER HIGH AIR JORDAN! FROG SPLASH! ACH pins O’Reilly at 20:42
Rating – *** – Match of the night so far, although I didn’t find it quite as impressive as some live reports and reviews rated this. For me this was a solid, formulaic tag match which thankfully, unlike most ROH matches these days, got a decent time allocation and therefore had plenty of room to breathe. Unfortunately it felt really heat-less for long periods. Tadarius was the wrong call for the heat segment, as it just sucked the energy out of the crowd (who loved ACH and hated Fish in equal measure). The match only really found any energy and rhythm in the final quarter when they started throwing spots around. On the positive side, this was better than their Columbus match in 2013, and they’ll have a chance to do even better when they meet for the Tag Titles.
Fish throws an absolutely EPIC temper tantrum after the match, which involves arguing with countless fans, trying to hop the rails, throwing trash at some guy near the aisle and more…
Jay Lethal vs Michael Elgin vs Tommaso Ciampa vs Kevin Steen
This will be fought fittingly under Texas Tornado rules, meaning everyone will be in the ring together. It pits four of ROH’s top guys against each other, including three of the four World Title tournament semi-finalists. Elgin and Steen are both in hot pursuit of Cole. Elgin feels cheated in the manner of his defeat at Final Battle, and still feels he is the uncrowned World Champion, whilst Steen grows increasingly pissed off as he has to wait longer and longer for the title rematch he’s been campaigning for since he lost it at Supercard Of Honor 7. Lethal would love to be World Champ of course, but right now is chasing Tommaso Ciampa to regain his TV Title. Ciampa has already offered him a title shot, so Jay will want to send a message as they continue building to that. Kevin Kelly reveals that the winner here will receive a World Title shot.
To the delight of the crowd, they begin with a four-man test of strength…except Steen steps out as he was forced next to Elgin. Unbreakable dominates both Ciampa and Lethal simultaneously, even whilst Mr Wrestling punches him in his exposed jaw! Lethal clears the ring…for the rolling tope suicidas. He tries the Lethal Injection on Tommaso, but it’s way too early and the Psychopath levels him with a lariat. Project Ciampa blocked by Elgin…so Tommaso drops him with a German! F-5 countered with a knee strike, and the TV Champion starts sprinting around the ring throwing exposed knee strikes to all his opponents in turn. Elgin scoops both he and Jay up for the fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo, and then grabs Steen for a DEAD-LIFT POWERBOMB! DEAD-LIFT STALLING GERMAN gets 2! On the outside Ciampa has exposed some concrete floor and soon all four men are fighting nearby. Steen sits all three opponents in one chair for an OLE OLE CANNONBALL SENTON! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA FROM MR WRESTLING! He’s not done…STEEN-TON OFF THE TOP TO THE FLOOR! Back in the ring Steen attempts the same move, this time colliding with Unbreakable’s knees. Everyone slumps into opposite corners…then storm to the middle of the ring at the same time unloadin strikes! DRAGON SUPLEX from Steen to Lethal! Black Hole Slam on him by Elgin…and everyone is down! Lethal counters the Buckle Bomb to rana Michael into the buckles – then follows it with the Lethal Combo INTO the Koji Clutch! Steen grabs him for the Sharpshooter…only to be dragged into the SICILIAN STRETCH by Ciampa! CROSSFACE BY ELGIN! Steen powerbombs Elgin, saving Lethal – who thanks him by hitting the LETHAL INJECTION! Hail To The King on Elgin for 2. He tries another Injection on the TV Champion, who counters into a rack bomb. Elgin blasts Tommaso with a Roaring Elbow, then a dead-lift front slam! ST-Joe on Lethal, then the inevitable missed corkscrew senton. Steen Apron Bomb’s Ciampa…as in the ring Elgin Buckle Bomb’s Lethal. HEAD DROP SLEEPER SUPLEX ON ELGIN! HE PACKAGE PILEDRIVES LETHAL INTO MICHAEL ELGIN’S SPINE! STEEN WINS! It’s over, and Steen gets the title shot at 17:45
Rating – **** – This match was a lot of fun. Many of these ROH four corners end up becoming quite forgettable filler matches, but every so often we have one which really surprises us – and this very much fell into that category. The Texas Tornado rules helped as it gave a platform for these four talented individuals to drop huge bombs on each other from pretty early on. What I really liked here was that, although it was a spotfest, it was incredibly smartly executed. They weren’t head-dropping from minute one – instead starting out slowly and continually cranking up the violence, all building to that awesome finish between Steen, Lethal and Elgin. I haven’t enjoyed this show that much, but this main event made me glad I stayed until the end!
Steen celebrates, as Corino runs through the increasingly crowded World Title picture – with Jay Briscoe, Michael Elgin, Chris Hero and now Kevin Steen all right on his heels. Steen says he hasn’t been happy in ROH for the last year, because he’s been out of the title picture and distracted by the likes of SCUM. Once he’s dealt with Cliff Compton in Philadelphia he plans to regain the title so he can have a legendary reign like Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson or Nigel McGuinness. Great promo…
Tape Rating – ** – ROH has been getting plenty of plaudits for it’s live shows this year, and rightly so. However, it’s only fair that they take some criticism for this one which, at best, was an underwhelming B-show and, at times, was downright poor. There are a couple of really awful matches here (Touch/Caprice and Reigns/Weezy), and plenty of forgettable filler matches which accomplished very little other than taking up space on the card. That’s not to say this was a total waste of time. The two main events were decent, the show had a hot opening with Briscoe vs Cole, we had the debut of the Cole/Bennett/Maria alliance, and some of the best feud development story-telling ROH have done in a really long time between Cedric Alexander and The Decade. Put it this way – we’re in May now and this is still considered ROH’s weakest live show of 2014. If it’s still that way come December then ROH will have had a great year…
Top 3 Matches
3) Jimmy Jacobs vs Cedric Alexander (***)
2) reDRagon vs Adrenaline RUSH (***)
1) Kevin Steen vs Jay Lethal vs Michael Elgin vs Tommaso Ciampa (****)