ROH 358 – Field Of Honor – 15th August 2014
It’s safe to say that, visually at least, this will be the most unique show in Ring Of Honor history. Running one of the largest venues they’ve ever run, putting on an open-air stadium show for the first time, ROH returns to New York, this time at the MCU Park baseball stadium. A significant raise in arena fees (plus TNA now planning on using the building for regular TV tapings – whenever they get their sh*t together) means ROH has abandoned the Manhattan Center, and it’s historic Hammerstein Ballroom. Obviously this isn’t a permanent new home for ROH in the city, but since it’s the summer and the venue was available they accepted the date. Despite some of TNA’s well-documented dismal turnouts for their ‘Base-Brawl’ events, the attendance tonight is solid. It’s not outstanding, and way less than recent Hammerstein shows, but it’s nothing embarrassing at all. And considering the card for tonight is very much B-show material that’s a real testament to the burgeoning strength of the Ring Of Honor brand. There are some strong matches to look forward to – such as the conclusion to the Taven/Lethal feud in a Steel Cage, Chris Daniels and Frankie Kazarian challenging for reDRagon’s Tag Championship once again, plus a four corner showdown for the World Title bringing together four of ROH’s biggest stars. Unfortunately the undercard also features a host of Future Of Honor talents, Brutal Burgers and Moose – none of whom are ‘must see’ at this stage. This show doesn’t have the greatest write-up, but it looks undeniably cool as hell. Joe Dumbrowski (who was excellent on the last DVD) and Steve Corino (in full ‘ROH’ baseball garb) handle commentary from Brooklyn, NY.
Scarlett Bordeaux sings the national anthem (the actual one, not the House Of Truth version from Night Of Hoopla). She’s no Lillian Garcia that’s for sure, but she has some pipes on her. The sight of a rollercoaster whizzing round behind her is pretty odd though…
Jay Lethal vs Matt Taven – ROH TV Title Steel Cage Match
Matt has been at war with the House Of Truth all year. After losing the TV Title at Final Battle 2013 he dispensed with the services of Truth Martini, dismissed the Hoopla and tried to get serious about his in-ring career. Unfortunately Martini wouldn’t leave him be, and recruited Jay Lethal to replace him – leading Lethal back to the Television Championship in the process. Taven wants the TV Title back, but has been thwarted at every turn by Lethal, Martini and the HOT shenanigans which he profited from during his record-breaking run with the belt. Tonight he gets his final shot, and has requested a Steel Cage stipulation in the hope of keeping Truth, Seleziya, Jay Diesel and anyone else from the HOT out of the ring. If he wins not only will he be TV Champion again, he also gets five minutes alone in the ring with Truth. Which sounds pretty rape-ish when you think about it…
TOPE SUICIDA THROUGH THE DOOR BY TAVEN! Apparently the challenger isn’t happy to even let his challenger into the ring, and kick-starts proceedings with a brawl on the floor. Sadly for him, out there Martini and Seleziya are able to cause distractions, which Truth does so even though he appears to have suffered an ankle injury. Seleziya gets rammed into the cage for good measure – then has Lethal catapulted straight at her! An UGLY atomic drop from the champ buys him some time, but he takes way too long setting up the Randy Savage axehandle and is plastered into the mat again with a dropkick. They take turns bashing each other’s heads into the cage, with a recovered Truth Martini doing victory laps of the bases in the outfield. Up the ropes they go, still trading shots into the cage, with Matt taking control with a top rope Russian legsweep. In the late evening sunshine they go strike for strike before Taven hits an underhook DDT for 2. Lethal Combination back in his direction though. SWINGING NECKBREAKER OFF THE TOP ROPE BY TAVEN! He then counters the Lethal Injection by flinging him back where he came from into the cage once again. SUPERKICK FLURRY AGAINST THE CAGE! Seleziya starts climbing into the cage to help her man…AND GETS DROPKICKED OFF THE CAGE TO THE FLOOR! LETHAL INJECTION NAILED FOR 2! Jay Diesel tries to force his way into the cage but eats an inadvertent superkick from Jay. TAVEN COMBINATION! FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH OFF THE TOP OF THE CAGE! TRUTH BREAKS THE COUNT! He then slams the door into Taven’s face, firing him backwards into a title belt shot from Lethal. That’s enough for the champion to retain at 14:50
Rating – **** – This was an utter blast. Sometimes ROH get so bogged down with trying to be serious, and present a credible, corporate wrestling product – that they forget that it’s supposed to be an entertainment business. Who cares that these guys basically ignored the whole premise of the Cage Match (i.e. a grudge match which keeps all the people who interfere OUT), between the whole cast of characters here they made sure everyone had a great time. Taven isn’t the most over babyface, and nobody is particularly caught up in this feud. But with a limited crowd, in a big open air venue they still had the place rocking. There’s no greater testament to how entertaining this was than that. Admittedly I like Taven a lot more than some people, but I loved this. Credit goes to all involved.
Taven looks devastated at this loss, and is now contractually barred from challenging for the belt again whilst Lethal is champion. Corino and Dumbrowski question whether he can recover from this defeat. Cameras catch up with him in his locker room where he is inconsolable, and states he has ‘nothing left’
Takaaki Watanabe vs Mark Briscoe
No storyline with this one. ROH haven’t really decided whether Watanabe is a heel or a face, haven’t booked him with any real consistency and is still waiting for a standout match on his American excursion. He has a tough test tonight in a Ring Of Honor veteran like Mark Briscoe.
Mark’s boisterous antics throw Watanabe off his game momentarily, but he’s a powerful athlete and he easily tackles the younger Briscoe brother to the ground. A big neckbreaker scores next as he starts using his hard-hitting offence to really punish his opponent. Next a colossal lariat counters Redneck Kung Fu impressively – and it’s clear Mark is really struggling against his mysterious foreign adversary. His urinage is blocked with a clothesline to the floor…where Briscoe retorts by stealing a Roderick Strong move: the apron backbreaker. Snap suplex on the mats, followed by the CACTUS ELBOW! Now he is able to execute the urinage…and polishes Wata off with the Froggy Bow at 06:21
Rating – ** – This ended just as it was getting going. They had a decent idea here with Watanabe using sheer power to overcome a lot of Mark’s more ridiculous, gimmicked offence…but they simply didn’t have enough time to really play it out. In the end what could have been an impressive showing for Watanabe actually ended up with him being roundly squashed.
Prince Nana returns to ROH, and apparently he’s still a ‘talent scout’. He saunters to ringside and steals Steve Corino’s headset, replacing him as commentary for this match.
Brutal Burgers vs RD Evans/Moose
If ROH were genuinely treating this show as a big deal then Brutal Burgers wouldn’t be anywhere near the card. The fact that they are booked tells you all you needed to know about how important this event really is. They are, beyond question, the most annoying team in Ring Of Honor. Veda Scott has been heavily recruiting Moose since he signed an ROH contract. By pairing him with her other client, the proponent of the ‘New Streak’ RD Evans, does that indicate she is now signed up as his manager?
Cheeseburger knocks Ramon off the apron with a handmade sign of his own (Ramon being RD’s designated ‘sign guy’). The Burgers start strongly against Evans…so RD quickly makes a move to bring Moose into play. Quite sensibly Burgers concentrate their efforts on keeping Evans in the ring after getting just a brief taste of Moose’s power. Veda turns the match in the favour of her team with a sneaky trip on Cheeseburger. Audible ‘boring’ chants can be heard during the ensuing heat segment. So much for Cheese’s popularity getting him booked. They fall into complete silence after the ‘hot’ tag to Brutal Bob. Sesame Seed Stunner on RD only for Moose to make the save. Evans tries to hit a spear on Bob…and he barely has time to no sell it before Moose mows him down instead with his version of the same move. Cheeseburger gets the same fate…and RD steals the win at 07:33
Rating – DUD – Brutal Burgers have no place getting booked on ROH shows. I’m not involved in the ROH Dojo, so I couldn’t tell you how much value Brutal Bob has in his reported role as a trainer there, but there is absolutely zero merit in putting him in front of the camera. Nobody cares about him, and you could hear a pin drop in this vast stadium whenever he was involved. I’ve documented my hatred of Cheeseburger many times over so won’t waste my time going over it again here. RD was entertaining at least, but dragged down by the three sub-par performers he was sharing the ring with.
RD scores the second home run of the night – running the bases throwing up the ‘Streak’ fingers.
Rocky Romero vs Michael Bennett
Koslov is still on the shelf through injury, so once again Rocky is picking up a Forever Hooligans booking and working solo tonight. He is a semi-regular in New Japan, and tonight faces another guy starting to break ground in that promotion – Michael Bennett. He impressed NJPW officials when they visited for Global Wars/War Of The Worlds, and has since worked a high profile date in Japan for them. Bennett will know a victory here will have potentially positive ramifications on his quest to get more work with New Japan.
Commentary takes a turn for the bizarre here, with Corino randomly bashing former ROH Tag Champions like Ricky Reyes and Tony Mamaluke. Bennett is far too cocky in the opening moments and soon learns just how lethal Rocky’s kicks can be. Maria Kanellis involves herself to provide him with some respite. His offence is far more basic than Romero’s, but he uses his powerful clotheslines, suplexes and some clever manipulation of the rules to dominate the multi-time former Tag Champion. He even manages to toss Rocky clean out of the ring as the Havana Pitbull attempts to fight back with a sleeper hold. Eventually he starts believing his own hype, and with Maria’s approval Bennett lines up an ill-advised pescado. Romero easily counters it with a European uppercut…then sprints into the ring to show him how it’s done with a tope suicida. Bennett hits back with a superkick then the Spear on the apron! He tries the same spot inside the ring but it’s countered into a tornado DDT for 2. Romero then escapes the Twist Of Fate…only to eat a spinebuster instead. ‘I went to Japan’ – Bennett. He then hits Paydirt into Go Back To Japan but can’t force the submission. Romero rallies with corner clotheslines, prompting Maria to hop onto the apron and distract him with an ‘Azucar’ shimmy of her own. Spear from Bennett, then the TKO. He wins at 10:46
Rating – ** – The action was just fine, but they never really overcame a jarring clash of styles. The idea that Bennett would use his basic, powerful offence to overcome the complex, bewildering moveset of his well-travelled opponent was sound – but unfortunately watching it play out was rather dull. There weren’t any real moments of genuine excitement and a lot of the stuff they did looked extremely fake.
The Decade make their way out, even though their scheduled match against War Machine has been cancelled due to Ray Rowe being seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. Jimmy Jacobs accuses Daniels and Kazarian of being greedy veterans. The Decade, on the other hand, like to give opportunities to younger talent – and have offered three Future Of Honor talents the chance to face them tonight.
Roderick Strong/Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer vs Will Ferrara/Ken Phoenix/John Knockout
This would be a main show debut for Phoenix and Knockout. I’ve not seen them before so can’t comment on their ability. Ferrara (who looks creepily like Ricochet) has made shows before, normally as part of Team Benchmark with Bill Daly. That gimmick seems to have gone away for the time being, and he (along with his two FOH classmates) will be looking to make a splash against the big-name veterans standing across the ring from them.
Predictably this is pretty much a non-stop shill for the ROH Dojo and their stupid training seminars. Knockout starts and absolutely flattens Jacobs, driving the Decade’s mouthpiece back into his corner looking to quickly tag out. The Decade rush the ring and start kicking lumps out of all three opponents, capturing Phoenix in the process and starting to isolate him. Eventually Ken hits a diving lungblower, then makes a hot tag to Ferrara…who gets clocked with a big lariat from Whitmer. So much for that. Sick Kick on Phoenix, followed by the All Seeing Eye on Ferrara for the win at 05:26
Rating – * – Too long to be a squash and too one-sided to give the rookies any real credibility…this one had a lot of problems. As a vehicle to continue Decade’s ‘angle’ I like it though, and since Rowe was injured so late there wasn’t much chance of getting a decent replacement anyway this was probably making the best of a bad situation. Knockout, with his bizarre facepaint and wildly OTT mannerisms was actually quite entertaining. Personally I’d have rather seen this made a 2-on-2 match, with Hanson facing the other Decade member in singles competition.
Decade put the boots to the rookies…until Hanson (wielding a baseball bat) sprints to the ring to make the save. Jacobs, Strong and Whitmer are quick to flee once the bearded behemoth is on the scene.
Silas Young vs Tommaso Ciampa
At this point in time Young is considered one of the top contenders to the World Championship. He won a #1 contendership match at Aftershock, and went on to defeat Kevin Steen in a No DQ match in Cincinnati. The World Title picture is something Ciampa is looking to force his way into as well, albeit he doesn’t have the best won/lost record recently. They clashed at the recent Dearborn TV tapings and are both tough, hot headed individuals. They make for natural rivals, and will both be looking to move ahead of the other in the chase of Michael Elgin.
This quickly degenerates into slaps and some of the angriest displays of basic mat wrestling you’ll ever see. The pace quickens, tempers fray further, but neither man is able to seize control as they wrestle to a stalemate. Tommaso suplexes Young into the apron and starts clubbing away on the back, but he appears to be losing control of his mental faculties once again as he randomly decorates his opponent in a mass of streamers from under the ring before continuing to beat on him. He then starts cranking on Silas’ arm to set up for the Sicilian Stretch, but the Last Real Man doesn’t stand for it. He stomps Ciampa into the canvas, hurling abuse at him as he does so. Sleeper hold blocked, only for Young to bail on the Bare Knee strike. Plunge COUNTERED to a German suplex! NO SOLD! Air Raid Crash gets 2 for Tommaso! They trade pinfalls until Silas hits a punt to the top of the head then a violent lariat combo. Pee Gee Waja Plunge misses…Killer Combo COUNTERED to the Sicilian Stretch! Young tries to leave the ring, and the commentators soon have to dive for cover as Ciampa gives chase and starts tossing chairs around too. He whips Young into one of them then BATTERS him with Bare Knee Strikes! In response Young NAILS him with the bell and takes a cheap win at 10:52
Rating – *** – I preferred their match from All Star Extravaganza last year, but this was pretty great. I love how well these two convey their characters through their ringwork. Silas is outstanding as a crabby, no nonsense veteran who just wants to beat people up, and equally Tommaso is extremely good as a hard-hitting, slightly unhinged killer. Unlike the Romero/Bennett match, they have great chemistry and made for natural opponents. I’d love to see another match and a clean finish somewhere soon.
Ciampa is seriously pissed off at that finish…and visibly struggles to contain his temper as he slaps referee Paul Turner in the face. The rest of the referee squad have to send him to the locker room, although another one gets knocked out before he finally leaves.
Cedric Alexander vs ACH
This match pits two of ROH’s most exciting up and coming talents in the ring together. Alexander is having a break-out year in 2014, culminating of course in his victory over Roderick Strong at Best In The World. ACH’s year has been a little slower, but like Cedric he’s been at the forefront of many battles with The Decade. Both would like to force their way up the card, perhaps into championship contention so know a win is vital to push them up the pecking order.
ACH appears to be the more athletic of the two, and back flips into an early dropkick to give him the advantage. Alexander is pretty quick in his own right though, and aggressively drags him to the ground to kick him in the head. The crowd (who live reports said were absolutely awful) are audibly out of this match for the first time, with whole sections turning their back on the ring to point and chant abuse at other sections. ACH and Cedric look a little lost and confused by it…trading shots and moving around the ring at a rapid pace despite getting no appreciation from their audience. Slingshot flatliner by ACH, but he’s taken so much abuse from his opponent that he can’t capitalise. A flying elbow strike does eventually find the mark, as does a bridging German for 2. Air Jordan evaded, then another slingshot flatliner is countered to a NECK DROP BOMB! ACH landed hard right on his neck there, and whether that was the planned finish or not, the match is over at 08:54. Cedric is your winner…
Rating – DUD – You can blame the crowd for some of this. I’d read bad things about the audience, but up to this point in the show they’ve really not been noticeable at all. In fact, the size of the stadium and the open air set up means that a lot of the annoying, drunken hollering cameras normally pick up at smaller venues isn’t an issue here. However, despite how much the crowd crapped on their match, ACH and Cedric do need to take some responsibility too. Of course they are young guys, but they’ve both been wrestling for several years and should have the experience and ability to continue working a decent match regardless of what the fans are doing. They let the audience knock them off their game. The middle portion of this was a mess, with pointless spots, no-selling a plenty, and both of them looking out into the crowd with panicked, desperate looks on their faces. The ugly finish was unfortunate as well, but thankfully ACH walked away relatively unharmed. The midcard of this DVD is crashing and burning right now. Several had this earmarked as a potential showstealer, and it turned out a real mess.
reDRagon vs Christopher Daniels/Frankie Kazarian – ROH Tag Title Match
Daniels and Kaz returned to ROH at Best In The World, where they unsuccessfully challenged reDRagon for the belts. Despite The Decade’s protestations that they don’t deserve another shot so soon, they actually earned this one by winning a four corner match on television and have vowed not to let Fish and O’Reilly escape with the Tag Titles for a second time.
We have an aggressive start from the challengers, making both their opponents suffer in the opening minutes. reDRagon make a beeline for Kaz’s arm, which is the exact strategy they deployed to gain victory in Nashville. This time, though, his partner is on hand to help him – knocking O’Reilly out of the ring then landing on top of him with an Arabian press to the floor. Kyle actually remains on the floor though, lying in wait for an opportunity to trip Frankie. It eventually comes, and in a flash he and his partner are all over his arm and shoulder once again. Kazarian is in his mid-30’s, and he looks it as he is completely overwhelmed by the sheer speed of O’Reilly as he lays into him with a barrage of strikes. Daniels is already extremely animated on the apron as he watches the Dragons pick his partner apart. Even when he does get a tag the presence of reDRagon is such that referee Turner doesn’t see it. Finally Daniels is tagged in, dropping Kyle with a blue thunder driver as Kaz slumps into the corner. The champions use their numbers advantage to beat the Fallen Angel down now, getting a nearfall with the backbreaker/knee drop combo. Kazarian comes to his partner’s aid, and sets Kyle up for the Best Moonsault Ever! They have the match won…but Jimmy Jacobs is at ringside distracting the ref! Strong and Whitmer sprint out as well to brain Daniels against the ringpost. He’s knocked out and easy prey for Chasing The Dragon. The champs retain at 12:31
Rating – *** – Who is booking this? I don’t object to the idea of a Decade vs Daniels/Kaz feud, but how can you not find more than twelve minutes for this match? The first match was extremely decent, and lots of people were backing them to go even better this time around. But such a paltry time allocation totally handcuffed them. I really liked the way reDRagon tried to work Frankie’s arm again since that strategy was successful last time, but again – they simply didn’t have time to flesh that story out. Another kick in the balls from this bizarre and appalling undercard!
SIDENOTE – From memory, I believe the event started late, and ROH had to break after this match because the nearby theme park was running their nightly fireworks display. It would make sense that Delirious curtailed this one because he couldn’t risk wrestling taking place during the fireworks (from an audio soundpoint at least the footage would be horrible). Having said that, I think we’d all much rather they’ve have not bothered with the crappy Decade/Future Of Honor crap and just given these guys the extra five minutes.
Michael Elgin vs Jay Briscoe vs AJ Styles vs Adam Cole – ROH World Title Match
Match Maker Nigel McGuinness knew this was a big show that needed a worthy main event. He calculated that the top three contenders to Elgin’s belt were Cole (the former champ still waiting for a rematch), AJ Styles (only defeated once since his return to the company, and reigning IWGP Champ) and Jay Briscoe (who hasn’t been pinned for over two years). Rather than picking between them, he listened to Elgin’s desire to cement his place as the greatest ROH Champion ever and put them all in the same match.
Briscoe sprints straight across the ring at Cole. The Kingdom still has his title belt, and he’s still not forgiven them for screwing him at Supercard Of Honor so he has a serious score to settle. Elgin, meanwhile, boots Styles square in the mouth. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA by Jay! He then gets his knees superkicked from under him by Cole…before Adam finds his attempts at a Figure 4 Leglock repeatedly thwarted. Elgin hits an exploder suplex on AJ, then the ST-Joe on Cole as he starts to establish himself. Corkscrew senton misses though and it leaves the ring clear for Briscoe and Styles to go at it. ELGIN POWERBOMBS BRISCOE INTO A SUPERLEX ON AJ! COLE FLORIDA KEY’S ELGIN ON THE FLOOR! Jay blocks the Panama Sunrise only for Cole to counter the Jay Driller into a cradlebreaker for 2. Shining Wizard countered by Elgin into a horse collar…even with Briscoe booting him in the head! Styles finally breaks it with the springboard elbow smash. PELE on Cole, but before AJ even has time to get up he is taking a dead-lift German from the champ. He then crunches Jay’s shoulder into the turnbuckles and ringpost, which we know is a serious sore point for him. Cole actually helps him out by rescuing Jay from the dead lift superplex – but only because he wants to snatch a victory of his own with the Shining Wizard. German suplex/gourdbuster combo from AJ to break the fall! Meanwhile Elgin busies himself scooping both Cole and Briscoe up for the Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo. AJ is so awesome he runs through a counter/counter/counter sequence with two different wrestlers at the same time. ELGIN GERMANS BOTH JAY AND AJ…BUT STYLES LANDS ON HIS FEET AND PHENOMENON’S HIM! SUPERKICK from Cole to block another springboard elbow! Brainbuster from Styles to Briscoe, before he eats a superkick as he tries to give Elgin the Styles Clash! BACK FIST to counter the Panama Sunrise! BUCKLE BOMB! ELGIN BOMB! Elgin retains at 16:27
Rating – **** – Much like the opening match, this was far from technically perfect and basically amounted to a pretty cheap spotfest. However, it was undeniably a lot of fun to watch. These guys are all so good that watching them work what was basically an elongated Scramble Match was crazily entertaining. AJ Styles, despite being massively under-utilised, looked awesome anytime he took centre stage whilst Cole and Briscoe were super-over in their respective roles. In the end you wound up feeling bad for Elgin, who played his part in another strong title defence but still came off looking, by a mile, the least over guy in the match. The crowd absolutely died when he won. ROH still has plenty of work to do to get this guy over as a legitimate, believable World Champion. Which makes you wonder why they took the belt off the extremely competent Adam Cole to give it to him in the first place.
Tape Rating – ** – What a weird show. It started and ended with extremely entertaining matches, and visually it looked absolutely stunning. The MCU Park set-up looked as impressive as anything ROH has ever run, they drew a respectable number of fans – and even the awesome graphics and production set-up contributed to making this one visually stunning. But the undercard absolutely bombed. It felt like everything that could go wrong with a show DID go wrong for most of this DVD. The crowd weren’t great, the booking was appalling, we saw some ugly clashes of styles inside the ring and, to be frank, a lot of the wrestlers were miles off their best tonight. You can excuse some of it as bad luck. ACH getting injured, or Ray Rowe not being able to wrestle obviously didn’t help. Delirious can’t help that the theme park adjacent to the stadium is running a fireworks display. But be it Delirious, or SBG…someone has to take the heat for a hugely underwhelming undercard on such a big show. Brutal Burgers and a bunch of Future Of Honor talents shouldn’t be near a show of this magnitude. If you realise you’re pushed for time with fireworks over the road, you shouldn’t be hacking time off reDRagon/Bad Influence (a potential show-stealing match), you should be kicking the likes of Will Ferrara, Cheeseburger and Bob Evans off the show or slashing their matches right down. Cedric and ACH are both experienced enough and shouldn’t have let a bad crowd derail their match. The sad reality is that this was hyped as a major event, it had the look of a major event – but only about a quarter of the show actually delivers in the way a major event should. It makes it a tough recommendation no matter how much I liked the TV and World Title matches. That said, I really loved the staging and set-up and would love ROH to try this again next summer – but with a much stronger card.
Top 3 Matches
3) Silas Young vs Tommaso Ciampa (***)
2) Jay Lethal vs Matt Taven (****)
1) Michael Elgin vs Adam Cole vs Jay Briscoe vs AJ Styles (****)