ROH Best In The World 6/22/2014

ROH 355 – Best In The World 2014 – 22nd June 2014

Much as when they debuted on national pay-per-view in 2007, and just as when they promoted their first ever live ippv in 2009, this event (their first ever live nationwide ppv) feels like a step into the unknown for Ring Of Honor. With the WWE abandoning the traditional pay-per-view medium in favour of the WWE Network people are starting to consider whether the familiar, Sunday night live ppv concept is dead and doesn’t fit ith the way modern wrestling fans consume the product. Critics will say that ROH is four or five years too late in getting themselves to the live ppv party. Compare the relatively low key build to this show with the emotion and elation people have when they talk about ECW’s first live ppv (Barely Legal 1997) and you’ll realise how much times have changed. HOWEVER, one cannot deny that there is still a market there for the live, traditional pay-per-view. It’s not like WWE’s buyrates were in the toilet (considering how mediocre their product often is), and with the majority of the major ppv providers choosing to drop WWE there is undeniably an opportunity for a niche product like ROH to do some decent business. Nobody is expecting WWE numbers, or even ECW numbers…but with the opportunity to reach more homes in a far more reliable manner than internet pay-per-views, you could argue that (assuming SBG got ROH a decent deal and aren’t having to going to suffer financially for the air time) the benefits outweigh the risks. I’ve been critical of the build to the event – such as running Global Wars highlights a week before the show, and taping all the lead-in episodes two months previously (Second To None) meaning that we’ve only really had a couple of matches announced and properly hyped. Despite that, the card is actually rather strong and there is plenty at stake in the majority of the contests. The headline bout is Michael Elgin challenging arch rival Adam Cole for the World Title in a rematch we’ve been waiting for since Death Before Dishonor 11. Jay Lethal defends the TV Title against perennial thorn in the House Of Truth’s side, Matt Taven. The feud between Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander comes to an end in a Submission Match, Silas Young looks to make a name for himself at Kevin Steen’s expense, the Briscoes battle The Kingdom in a grudge match and Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian) make their return to ROH to challenge reDRagon for the Tag Team Championship. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino welcome us to Nashville, TN (the same building which hosted TNA’s weekly ppv series back in the day) for the historic occasion.

The show gets a super-special opening video package which looks fantastic, and it’s clear lots of effort has gone into making the presentation as smart as possible on a realistic budget. We have an event-specific ring apron, plenty of ‘Best In The World’ branding and the graphics package for the show is head and shoulders above anything ROH has done before. Even if it’s the same old Sinclair-owned ROH underneath, they’ve made an effort to make this feel like a big deal.

ACH vs Takaaki Watanabe vs Caprice Coleman vs BJ Whitmer vs Tadarius Thomas vs Tommaso Ciampa
We open with 6-Man Mayhem action. The winner will receive a future shot at the TV Title. ACH and Tommaso are big favourites with the crowd, but you can’t look past The Decade who have entered both BJ Whitmer and Tadarius Thomas. Watanabe is still on his extended US tour, and ROH have pulled a bizarre WWE move and decided to remove all mention of his first name.

It’s Ciampa and ACH who get us started, providing a unique mix of power and aggression from Tommaso and unparalleled athleticism from the smaller man. ACH continually avoids Ciampa’s big shots…before Watanabe interrupts the standing ovation to mow them both down. Whitmer instructs TD to tag in and put a stop to ACH’s antics, and together the former partners run through a fun kung fu movie strike exchange. Whitmer tries to force his way in but is promptly dispatched by a spinning axe kick from Coleman…who in turn is flattened with Ciampa’s snap German suplex. Whitmer gets major heat for smashing ACH in the face as he lines up Air Jordan and the three heels (Watanabe is working heel it seems) set about isolating him in the ring. Coleman saves with the Five Finger Death Punch on Watanabe, straight into the STANDING FRANKENSTEINER on Whitmer! BACK FLIP TRINITY on both Thomas and Takaaki…and his reward for that is being clobbered by Ciampa. Watanabe full on STIFFS Tommaso (his lip instantly starts bleeding), so is put on his back with the Air Raid Crash. PUMPHANDLE REGALPLEX from Watanabe to BJ! Caprice interrupts with a Mind Trip, only to be destroyed with PROJECT CIAMPA! PROJECT CIAMPA ON ACH! Both members of The Decade break the fall! Whitmer then takes out his own young boy with the Exploder ’98! SLIDING LARIAT from Watanabe to Coleman! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY CIAMPA! SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT BY CAPRICE! AIR JORDAN BY ACH! 450 SPLASH ON TD! ACH wins, and earns himself a TV Title shot at 12:05

Rating – *** – A little slow to get going, but it soon built into a hell of an adrenaline rush to get the show started. ACH, Ciampa and Caprice all looked fantastic here, hitting hard and producing genuinely memorable and impressive spots to wow any newcomers who may have ordered the show. I felt more could have been made of The Decade as heels, and Watanabe was a touch sloppy at times, but overall this was pretty much the ideal way to get a show like this started.

Whitmer vents his frustration by getting into a shoving match with Steve Corino as he exits the arena.

Jay Lethal vs Matt Taven – ROH TV Title Match
It was with the assistance of Truth Martini that Matt Taven was able to win the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament, defeat Adam Cole for the TV Title, and become the longest reigning Television Champion of all time. It all came to an end at Final Battle 2013, and in the fall-out of his spectacular loss to Ciampa on that night, Taven fired Martini and decided to step out on his own. The scorned Truth continued to be a thorn in Matt’s side, but he acted fast to replace him in the House Of Truth with Jay Lethal – immediately leading Jay back to the TV Title at Supercard Of Honor 8. That was the same night that Martini threw a fireball in Taven’s face by the way. Taven gained a measure of revenge at Road To Best In The World when he beat Lethal disguised as Romantic Touch but tonight he wants to complete the revenge mission by taking back the title he covets so much. Martini will be handcuffed at ringside to prevent him interfering.

Truth Martini takes his time conceding to being cuffed, but eventually agrees. Taven decides he’d rather fight his defenceless former manager rather than wrestle Lethal which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in my opinion. He tries to go after Martini twice, and each time winds up getting sucker punched. Seleziya then distracts him again to allow Lethal to knock him off the apron with an ugly jumping enzi kick. Taven misses a moonsault press into the ring, but reacts quickly and hits a blue thunder driver instead. For the millionth time he leaves the ring though, making a beeline for Truth then getting confronted by Seleziya. Lethal dropkicks him in the side of his unsuspecting face as punishment. He recovers with a couple of kicks then a slingshot swinging neckbreaker for 2, before Jay retaliates with the Lethal Combination. Macho Elbow nailed for 2! Lethal Injection COUNTERED with a handspring enzi, but Jay rolls out of the ring before Taven can capitalise. TOPE SUICIDA COUNTERED WITH A MID-AIR SUPERKICK! He then starts ripping off Lethal’s moves to piss him off – hitting rolling topes into the RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE! Seleziya got taken out in the midst of that too leaving Taven free to make a beeline for the seemingly hapless Truth Martini. Truth slips some cash to J. Diesel (who has been at ringside for a few months as ‘Head Of Security’) to protect him. Diesel and Taven have a seriously intense exchange, which distracts the challenger as Lethal recovers and Seleziya BREAKS the handcuffs to free Truth. Five Star Frog Splash gets knees, and Jay retains with the Lethal Injection at 10:13

Rating – ** – The TV Title division has been hot in 2014, and there have actually been some strong championship matches (Ciampa/Silas, Ciampa/Hanson, Ciampa/Taven, Ciampa/Lethal, Lethal/Koslov and Lethal/Kushida all come to mind) so it’s a real shame that we get one of the weaker and worst-booked TV Title matches for the pay-per-view. The stipulation with Martini completely derailed the match, with Taven being booked to look like an idiot more obsessed with punching Martini than winning the belt. Lethal and Taven are capable of much better than this, and it’s a real shame that after Martini pretty much ruined the TV Title division for all of 2013 he drags down the first live ppv being booked exactly the same way.

Roderick Strong vs Cedric Alexander – Submission Match
The pre-match video package for this feud was better at Global Wars. Having humiliated Cedric, kicked him out of the locker room, and beaten him at Supercard Of Honor, that night in Toronto when this feud kicked into an even higher gear. Alexander scored the upset victory, but was punished by being dropped through a stack of chairs; injuring his shoulder and putting him out of his scheduled dream match with Kazuchika Okada at War Of The Worlds. If that wasn’t enough, Roddy also had his stable-mate BJ Whitmer and young boy TD Thomas cost Cedric a shot at the World Title at Road To Best In The World Night 1 too. Tied at one victory each, will Roderick finally be able to bead Cedric into his place, or will Alexander be able to win the trilogy and enhance his reputation at the hands of the Triple Crown Champion?

Cedric’s luminous orange ring gear isn’t particularly flattering. He starts in determined fashion though, pummelling his enemy with all manner of strikes as Strong struggles to get out of the blocks. Roderick is experienced enough to ride out the storm though, and soon enough he starts targeting the back as we’ve seen him to do so many opponents previously. HEAT SEEKING MISSILE by Cedric! Adam Page and TD Thomas try to tend to their mentor after that but are shoved aside by the tenacious Alexander who is desperate to continue the assault. STRONG BACK DROPS HIM INTO THE SIDE OF THE RING! That looked disgusting and will have inflicted considerable damage to Cedric’s spine. Strong is right in his comfort zone now, and slows the pace as he starts destroying the back. The commentators are forced to acknowledge that Roderick is getting the lion’s share of support from the crowd, as Alexander hits a desperation Kick 2 Kill. He manages to dropkick Roderick into the arms of his waiting young boys…then SOMERSAULT PLANCHAS through them! Page and Thomas absorbed the brunt of the impact on that, so Cedric ricochets straight of the guardrail into an enziguri on Mr ROH. Slingshot DDT rolled into END TIME! I could do with him even attempting to sell the back, but that is awesome! When Strong gets to the ropes Alexander is quick to jump all over him again – this time with the Impact Explosion Dropkick. SWINGING FLATLINER! DRAGON CLUTCH! Roderick knees his way free but he is really starting to feel the effects of Cedric’s super-aggressive approach. He manages to drop Alexander on his back with a superplex, but can barely drag himself off the canvas after executing it. With one last burst of energy he SPITS IN CEDRIC’S FACE! DEATH BY RODERICK COUNTERED TO END TIME! Roderick makes the ropes, tosses Alexander over them then dives off the apron with a running elbow. Stronghold blocked, so Roderick drags him up the turnbuckles looking for an avalanche Gibson Driver. TURNBUCKLE BACKBREAKER BY CEDRIC! LUMBAR CHECK! STRONGHOLD ON RODDY! HE TAPS! Cedric wins at 16:16

Rating – **** – I’ve read some rather indifferent reviews of this match, but I thought it was great. Cedric certainly could have sold better but everything else was absolutely spot on. Alexander was, quite rightly, the aggressor considering all The Decade had done before. Strong, positioned as the experienced veteran in both a kayfabe and real-life context, looked to wrestle Alexander like he’s wrestled so many other opponents in his decade-long ROH tenure – but this time simply couldn’t stop his highly motivated opponent. Alexander’s tributes to other wrestlers were awesome too. He went from using Austin Aries’ impact moves, to Low Ki’s submissions, ripping off Jimmy Jacobs finisher before finally tapping Strong out with his own move – a great way to make the point that he appreciates the superstars of Ring Of Honor that blazed the trail he now follows (and piss Decade off in the process). A better crowd and some better selling of the back and I think people would have been a lot fonder of this one.

Roderick still refuses to shake Cedric’s hand after the match…

Michael Bennett/Matt Hardy vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
The Briscoes have had issues with The Kingdom for a long time. We know all about Jay’s pursuit of Adam Cole and the World Title, which ended in Ladder War 5 at Supercard Of Honor. In the aftermath of that we saw Cole hand over Jay’s ‘Real World Title’ belt to Matt Hardy, who christened it the ‘ICONIC Title’, much to Jay’s annoyance – who insists it’s still his property and wants it back. Meanwhile Mark and Bennett have squared off several times too. They had a rough No DQ Match in New Orleans, whilst Bennett has put the younger Briscoe brother through a few tables too. Will the dastardly Kingdom continue their vile dominance, or will the ever-popular Briscoes score a huge win on what must be a huge evening for two guys who worked the first ever ROH show back in 2002?

Maria’s shorts are so miniscule she may as not be wearing them. And the Briscoes are psychotically over, with the ring being completely buried in streamers. Quite predictably Jay wants to start with Hardy, who has no interest in reciprocating. He gets to stomp Bennett in the corner but even then can’t help but turn and pursue Matt. Corino sounding devastated that Kevin Kelly got to watch Matt in the Attitude Era whilst he didn’t is hysterical and the highlight of a rather unremarkable opening few minutes. Business instantly picks up as Jay finally manages to tag in with Hardy though, with him instantly dragging him outside for a brawl – which apparently breaks Kevin’s monitor in the process. Bennett comes to his aid and knocks Jay out with the ICONIC Title – causing a disqualification at 05:54. Nigel McGuinness instantly appears on the ramp though, and demands the match be restarted under No DQ rules. He then joins commentary to watch the fun as Mark hits a Raven drop toehold on Bennett. BACK SUPLEX THROUGH A CHAIR! The fans want tables, but are quickly disappointed as Hardy throttles Jay with a length of cable to stop him retrieving one…and inside the ring Maria grabs a chair from Mark’s hands, allowing Bennett to throw one into his face. In a throwback to ppv’s of the past, Hardy is fishing under the ring and pulls out a massive ladder. BOX OFFICE SMASH ON THE FLOOR! Inside the ring Jay scoops Hardy up for a DVD THROUGH TWO CHAIRS! And if that wasn’t enough he then suplexes him into the ladder! CACTUS ELBOW BY MARK! SPEAR ON THE APRON BY BENNETT! This match was terrible at first, but has quickly gotten absolutely awesome. The Briscoes aren’t to be outdone with the craziness, and scoop Bennett up for a DOOMSDAY DEVICE TO THE FLOOR! Hardy has some actor guy (with an award) at ringside, and he grabs aforementioned award to waffle Jay with it. Mark hits the FROGGY BOW on that guy (Nick Searcy). That gave Matt enough time to recover though, and he gives Jay the Twist Of Fate for 2. The Kingdom get a table set up in the ring, but are stopped before they can use it, with Mark hauling Bennett out of the ring – FOR A FROGGY BOW OFF THE TOP THROUGH A TABLE ON THE FLOOR! Hardy is climbing up the ladder but gets a fire extinguisher blasted into his face! Jay chases him up the ladder. SUPERPLEX OFF THE LADDER THROUGH A TABLE! JAY DRILLER! Briscoes win at 16:31!

Rating – **** – The highlight of Matt Hardy’s ROH tenure by an immeasurable distance. He’s spent most of his time in this promotion playing it safe, working within himself, hardly bumping and going over most of ROH’s top guys. But here he was incredible, taking crazy bumps, busting his ass and doing everything possible to put the Briscoes over. The first five minutes were brutally uninteresting (to the point where I was already thinking about my latest anti-Hardy rant for this ‘Rating’ section) but everything after the restart was mind-blowing. All four guys brought the goods, took some nasty spills and generally suffered to produce a spectacular grudge match for ROH’s first ppv. I had almost no interest in this match coming into the show, and very low expectations. To say they blew me away would be a massive understatement. Kudos to all four, but particularly to Matt Hardy, who should have been written out of the promotion after this event as this match was the perfect way to end his time here.

Maria manages to grab the ICONIC Title and run away with it before Jay can recover it, so his quest to get his property back continues.

The crowd needs to cool down after that, so Larry Mercer and Mandy Leon introduce Moose as the newest ROH contracted talent. He bores everyone to tears with his interview, before Veda Scott and Ramone arrive to save the skit by talking about the New Streak. She offers her managerial services to Moose, who apparently declines. Never let him talk again…

Silas Young vs Kevin Steen
Steen looked set to quit Ring Of Honor to pursue his WWE deal after defeat to Nakamura at War Of The Worlds. He’d said his goodbye to the New York fans and was ready to head into the sunset until Silas Young interrupted him, and called him a ‘pussy’ for caring about what the fans think. Silas recently said on TV he was through waiting for opportunities and was going to start making them for himself. He got Steen’s attention with his actions in Manhattan, and has managed to get Kevin to prolong his stay in the company just a little longer – with his sole purpose being to beat the ‘Last Real Man’ here tonight on ROH’s live ppv debut.

Steen gets a massive ovation from the fans who are mostly well aware he’s very much on his way out of the company now. He starts at 100mph and flings himself off the apron with the Cannonball to the floor. He ploughs through everything Young throws at him, until Silas grabs the ropes to block the Apron Bomb and manages to kick him head-first into the guardrails. He hits the head again seconds later, clobbering it with a lariat for 2. F-5 blocked and Young drills the back of the head into the mat again with a swinging neckbreaker. Unfortunately he tries it for a second time, by which point Steen is familiar with the tactic and keeps him at bay with a pop-up powerbomb. A hanging DDT out of the ropes follows that but Kevin is still visibly slowed by the head injury inflicted by his opponent. Silas flings him head-first into the middle turnbuckles then blasts the skull again with a mafia kick. Steen hits a pumphandle cradlebreaker as a defensive move, almost looking to stop Young punching his head as much as he wants to defeat him at this point. Package Driver countered with a REBOUND McLariat for 2. Pee Gee Waja Plunge blocked by tossing Silas into the turnbuckles, and he collapses in position for the Cannonball. Steen is still feeling the effects of his head injury, and can barely roll into a cover after nailing the Steen-ton Bomb. Young boots the head again and this time does hoist him up for the Plunge. But Steen moves…KILLER COMBO INSTEAD! More punches and knees rain down on Kevin’s groggy head…until he’s taken so many that he clearly isn’t thinking straight and actually triest to defend himself with headbutt! AVALANCHE FISHERMAN BUSTER! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! Steen has been battered, but not beaten. He leaves Nashville with the win at 13:01

Rating – *** – A really solid match, but possibly not the star-making match Silas Young might have liked. In fairness to both guys, they produced some great stuff here, with Young’s attack on the head being a really neat focal point for the contest and provided some unique ‘body part work’ which you don’t necessarily see too often. They were in a bit of a crap spot (coming after the Kingdom/Briscoes brawl and before the main events), but for their role on the card this was fine. My biggest criticism ultimately is that Silas didn’t win this. The show has enough babyface victories on it, so it’s not like it was would have been crippled by another heel going over, and a victory for Young on the live ppv debut could have been a huge feather in his cap. It turned out the plan was to keep Steen around for a few more shows yet anyway – including a rematch with Silas – so defeat here could have been the perfect kayfabe explanation for that.

Steen tries to make nice with Silas and compliments him on his abilities. Young offers him a handshake then leaves…before coming back to assault him. Great way to end the segment, and a decent way to get some heat back on Young after the defeat. If they have a rematch he needs to win

reDRagon vs Christopher Daniels/Frankie Kazarian – ROH Tag Title Match
I guess ROH doesn’t have the rights to the ‘Bad Influence’ team name for Daniels and Kaz. They are making their return to ROH for the first time in a while (particularly for Kazarian) and have been inserted straight into a Tag Title shot. reDRagon don’t like that one bit, as they have twice before lost the belts to non-contracted teams (Forever Hooligans and Young Bucks). Daniels is another man who worked the first ever Ring Of Honor event, so will be delighted to have made it back in time for the live ppv debut. Can he mark his return with his third Tag Title reign?

Daniels starts with O’Reilly and struggles to deal with the striking ability of the younger man. The commentators point out that Daniels is his early 40’s, making him a quite phenomenal athlete. Kazarian (who isn’t that much younger than him) has better luck and uses his speed to get the better of Fish. Daniels then suplexes him into a moonsault press on Kyle. In turn both members of reDRagon manage to crack Kaz’s shoulder into the ringpost. STEEL CHAIR TO THE ARM! The ref didn’t see that and it has dramatically changed the fortunes of the challengers. Fujiwara armbar by O’Reilly moments later which brings the Fallen Angel in to frantically save the match for his team. Even when Frankie looks to mount a fightback he has to deal with Fish sweeping his legs from the floor. Arm capture guillotine choke by Kyle – with Bobby ensuring Daniels isn’t on the apron to receive a tag from Kazarian even when he makes it to the corner. Finally Franke hits back with a Sling Blade, but it utilises his bad arm meaning he is in serious pain as he battles into the hot tag. Fall From Grace blocked, so Daniels hits the urinage slam instead. BME misses and reDRagon pick him up for a backbreaker/knee drop combo. TOPE SUICIDA from Daniels to O’Reilly! He then SLINGSHOT’S Fish into an Ace Crusher from Kaz for 2! Still no BME though, and Fish climbs to MISS a moonault of his own. PESCADO INSTEAD! Daniels smashed hard into the guardrails there, as his partner hits a slingshot DDT – hurting his own arm in the process. Blue Thunder Driver from Daniels to Fish which leaves all four men on the deck. ANGEL’S WINGS gets 2! Kazarian in, driving O’Reilly out of the ring with a Cactus clothesline. Daniels MISSES a moonsault to the floor and gets SPEARED INTO THE RAILS. MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON BY O’REILLY! Frankie pursues O’Reilly to the top rope! FLUX CAPACITOR NAILED! BUT IT HURTS HIS OWN ARM! Finally he covers, but by that point Bobby has recovered enough to pull the ref out of the ring before he can count the three! Axe & Smash into CHASING THE DRAGON! KAZ KICKS OUT! ARM-AGEDDON! reDRagon retain at 17:00

Rating – **** – Somewhat of a slow-burner, and the crowd (now weary after the Briscoes/Kingdom match and Steen) took a long time to get into the swing of things…but personally I thought this was hugely enjoyable. Daniels is still freakishly athletic considering his age, and every time he returns to Ring Of Honor his undoubted quality becomes an immediate asset to the company. Kazarian has never been on Daniels’ level as a worker, but he is perfectly good enough to carry a half-decent tag match – and I actually thought he sold the arm really well here. Sure he used it a few times, but you never once caught him using it then forgetting to sell it like hell afterwards. If I was to criticise I’d say they took a little too long to kick into the higher gears, and I felt that reDRagon were a little subdued. Sure they attacked the arm, but they seemed to lack the bravado and cocky ruthlessness that we’ve seen from them many times before. Maybe we can chalk that up to some pay-per-view nerves. Regardless of some minor flaws, this was a very strong tag team match and a commendable homecoming for Bad Influence. Hopefully ROH and Sinclair are already working on nailing them down for as many dates as possible in the immediate future.

Adam Cole vs Michael Elgin – ROH World Title Match
Although Elgin technically debuted in 2007 both of these guys were part of the strong class of wrestlers who became full-time roster members in late 2010/early 2011 – which also included Kyle O’Reilly, Michael Bennett and Tommaso Ciampa. Elgin was an enforcer in the second incarnation of the House Of Truth stable, whilst Cole rose through the ranks in the Future Shock tag team. Michael always seemed on the cusp of greatness (as indicated by his 2012 MOTYC World Title WrestleMania weekend match with Davey Richards and 2011 Survival Of The Fittest victory), but Cole has always been the man who can capture gold – as evidenced by victory over Elgin’s former HOT stable-mate Roderick Strong to become TV Champion. They crossed paths in the finals of the World Title tournament last year with Cole profiting from an unconscious referee when defeat looked certain, before recovering to win the belt. Another chance to become ROH Champion had slipped through Elgin’s fingers and he was devastated. He went on defeat Cole as part of the Champions vs All Stars 8-man Tag at Glory By Honor, before losing to him again (Cole held the tights) in the triple threat main event to Final Battle 2013. The pursuit of the top prize in ROH has consumed Unbreakable for years, and after losing his IWGP Title Match in New York (thus missing out on his other dream of a NJPW roster spot) many feel his career is at a major crossroads. Can he stay focused on the prize despite Adam’s unforgettable attack at Road To BITW Night 2 when he shaved Elgin’s head and put his wife in the Figure 4 – or will he be so crazed and intent on revenge that he loses concentration and allows the wily World Champion to escape? This is a rematch nine months in the making…

Elgin looks considerably more intimidating without the mullet. There are extra referees in the ring to ensure he doesn’t try to attack Cole before the match. In fact the challenger is surprisingly composed, but as soon as the bell rings he is all over his opponent with clubbing forearms. The mistakes keep coming for Cole who misses a pescado, misses with a steel chair shot then gets RUNNING POWERSLAMMED ONTO THE RAMP! Finally the champ manages to strike, catching Unbreakable dallying on the top rope and dragging him off into a backbreaker. There is an air of desperation about Cole as he rakes Elgin’s eyes then stalks Todd Sinclair. He tries a springboard move only to be dragged backwards into a lungblower. Elgin Bomb blocked, so he hits a tiger suplex instead for 2. Cole’s neck has to be hurting him now and it’s made worse as Michael hammers it with repeated close-range lariats. He counteracts it with a Shining Wizard but simply can’t combat the unrelenting power of the champion. Elgin dead-lifts him off the ground into a suplex…only for it to be COUNTERED into a cradlebreaker! Crossface briefly applied by Elgin, again wrenching on the champion’s neck. DEAD-LIFT AVALANCHE FALCON ARROW NAILED! Michael has been dominant in the opening ten minutes but simply can’t put Cole away. It leads to a mistake, as he tries an avalanche Elgin Bomb and sees it COUNTERED with a super rana. REVERSE RANA! FLORIDA KEY! FOR 2! Was the damage already sustained by Cole the reason he couldn’t hold the bridging pin there?

It’s too early for the Panama Sunrise, and when he lands on his feet he inadvertently TAKES TODD SINCLAIR’S HEAD OFF with a Superkick! In a repeat of Death Before Dishonor, the challenger promptly levels him with the Elgin Bomb…but can’t win the match as there’s no ref. Matt Hardy and Michael Bennett run in with Maria to attack Elgin…except he scoops them both up for the fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo! Another elbow is driven into Cole’s neck, before is scooped up for an AWESOME BOMB ONTO THE REST OF THE KINGDOM! Maria Kanellis slaps him in the chops…then runs away. Cole comes off the apron, shoves Elgin into a belt shot from Hardy. FLORIDA KEY ON THE FLOOR! War Machine hit the ring to fight off Bennett and Hardy, but Elgin is still unconscious on the outside and inside the ring Adam revives Sinclair and demands he count him out. Maria hands Cole the belt and tries to distract the ref again. MSCHIF IS HERE! GREEN MIST TO MARIA! BACK FIST! BUCKLE BOMB! ELGIN BOMB! COLE KICKS OUT! The ring fills with streamers because the fans think it’s over, but in the ring Elgin sinks to his knees in utter despair! Cole retreats to the top rope to dropkick Elgin’s surgically repaired knee from under him before applying the Figure 4 around the ringpost. He tries the Figure 4 inside the ring only to be dragged back into the CROSSFACE! Punches to the knee break it! Michael can barely stand, collapsing to the ground straight into a Black Superkick. PANAMA SUNRISE NAILED! Elgin kicks out at 2, to the utter disgust of the World Champion! He tries it again, but this time it’s rolled through into ROLLING POWERBOMBS! ELGIN BOMB! NEW CHAMPION! Elgin wins at 22:19

Rating – **** – I’ll start by saying this was nowhere near the MOTYC some people have been calling it. The over-booking may have ‘made sense’ to an extent, and at times it was certainly exciting, but it became excessive in my opinion, and certainly lasted far too long (i.e. to the point that it had started detracting from the match rather than enhancing it). That said, there was still plenty to enjoy. I loved the idea of Elgin coming in as the ice-cold killer, rather than the ‘I want revenge for my hair and my wife’ generic babyface. He countered all Cole’s moves, he out-thought him at every turn and everything he did was focused on that neck. Cole only actually made any headway in the match at all after his cohorts in The Kingdom had interfered on his behalf. I understand why, but personally I could have done with Cole getting to look stronger than that after nine months as World Champion. The finish, however, was undeniably fantastic though – even for someone like myself who remains steadfastly opposed to having Elgin go over Cole at this point. The super-close false finish swerved fans, and Cole’s subsequent resurgence and demolition on the knee really had people thinking Elgin was going home empty handed again. Great main event, and a fun end to a really solid pay-per-view – but far from the all-time classic I think a lot of Elgin supporters hype it as and wanted it to be.

SIDENOTE – I really need to convey how frustrated I am at putting the belt on Elgin at this juncture. The angle with Elgin’s mullet and MsChif took Adam Cole to a whole new level when it comes to being a heel champion. He finally had legitimate heel heat rather than ‘cool guy’ heat or, ‘we’re booing you because we have to’ reactions. That is an organic response from a crowd which you can’t plan or legislate for and need to fully embrace when you have it. I really don’t care whether ‘the plan’ or ‘the storyline’ was for Elgin to beat Adam Cole for the belt. Delirious should have been flexible enough in his booking to realise he had a good thing going after that angle – and that there was serious money in stretching this Cole run out for longer. I’m not saying Elgin shouldn’t have won the belt from him EVENTUALLY. But personally I felt like Elgin’s career has gone backwards in 2014, and people had started to go off the idea of him as World Champion. How much more intense would his chase for the title have been if he’d have lost this one (again) after what happened to his wife and his mullet? I think another couple of months chasing – to Death Before Dishonor weekend perhaps – would have made his title win such a big deal. After seeing him assaulted and humiliated in Collinsville, then come agonisingly close but ultimately short of his big prize here, fans would have been routing for him again as the ultimate sympathetic babyface. We’d have had time for the Cole vs AJ Styles title defence (ideally at Field Of Honor – although I’ll admit they’d have to go to a non-finish thanks to AJ’s status as IWGP Heavyweight Champion) and a little more time for The Kingdom (who have only really started becoming a force in the last month) to really flourish. I’m not totally sold on the idea of Elgin as champion generally (his promos are terrible, his character seems very wooden too – so I really hope is pushed as a Bryan Danielson-esque ‘workrate champion’) – but taking the belt from Cole here reeks of poor judgement on Delirious’ part. Much like when he took the belt off Steen to give it to a half-injured, almost-out of contract Jay Briscoe at Supercard Of Honor 7, it felt like he wanted a ‘big moment’ for his big show – and to hell with the long-term consequences.

As if to prove my point about a ‘big moment’ for their first ppv, ROH have gone overboard on Elgin’s celebrations – investing in confetti blasters to fill the arena with ticker tape soon after the bell.

Tape Rating – **** – I still have some pretty serious problems with the creative direction of the company and Delirious’ limitations as a booker in general – but to focus on the positives I have to say that this was perhaps my favourite show of 2014 thus far. It wasn’t perfect by any means – but neither was Respect Is Earned in 2007, or Final Battle 2009, or the first episodes on HDNet or SBG. What ROH did tonight was take the handbrake off, book fewer matches, with longer time allocations and with fewer restrictions on what their guys could and couldn’t do – and it really worked. Four 4* level matches (even low 4* level) on a card hasn’t happened too often since SBG took over, so to produce that level of in-ring quality on their first live pay-per-view special is something to be commended. I loved Strong/Cedric and Briscoes/Kingdom, and the two big title matches at the end were both hugely rewarding too. I could complain for a long time about the shoddy handling of the Lethal/Taven feud, about Steen and Silas not getting to go all out, and for the overbooking and (in my view) wrong man going over in the main event. BUT, this was a big night for ROH. The production was slick, the show was strong and catered to almost every wrestling taste from spotfests, to hardcore brawls to great technical wrestling, sports-entertainment, tag team excellence and an emotional rollercoaster of a World Title Match. I think it’s a DVD to focus on what I enjoyed rather than complain too heavily. An exceptional show and a strong way to announce themselves on a nationwide ppv stage. The talent inside the ring should be extremely proud.

Top 3 Matches
3) reDRagon vs Christopher Daniels/Frankie Kazarian (****)
2) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Michael Bennett/Matt Hardy (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Michael Elgin (****)

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