ROH 367 – Final Battle 2014 – 7th December 2014
Even though it’s a little earlier than normal (to accommodate the pay-per-view broadcast schedule), Final Battle is always a pretty exciting time of year for Ring Of Honor. Traditionally it is positioned as the crescendo and raging climax to a gruelling twelve months of struggle, sacrifice and ring wars for the ROH roster. Even this year – with the entire card feeling like an undercooked, raw-in-the-middle cupcake thanks to serious creative deficiencies – the prospect of a big ppv show in a sold out new New York venue is an enticing one. And for all the holes in Delirious’ booking of the undercard, the main event should be a real cracker. With almost two years of feud behind them, Adam Cole and Jay Briscoe look to settle their issues in the return of one of ROH’s most iconic grudge matches – the Fight Without Honor. The TV and Tag Champions don’t have such heated title defences scheduled, but Lethal/Sydal and reDRagon/Time Splitters are both potential showstealers if given enough time to deliver. Everything else on the show seems a little shrouded in mystery. Michael Elgin and Tommaso Ciampa could deliver a great match…but having been booked appallingly over an extended period now it’s impossible to know what to expect from them. Adam Page has a huge opportunity to shine in a grudge match with Roderick Strong – and despite being in ROH for a long time we’re still yet to really see him get a chance to shine in a major singles bout. ACH and Cedric Alexander have had outstanding, breakout years in the promotion…so naturally they are stuck in a throwaway midcard trios match – which packs in so much (under-utilised) talent that it will probably steal the show anyway. Despite some grave reservations about the card, ROH’s last ppv (Best In The World) turned out to be one of the more enjoyable shows of 2014. Here’s hoping Final Battle surprises us too. From Terminal 5 in Manhattan, NY – Kevin Kelly, Nigel McGuinness and Steve Corino are live!
SIDENOTE – Having been priced and TNA’d out of the Hammerstein Ballroom/Manhattan Center complex, and unable to run a baseball stadium in the middle of winter ROH debuts in another new Manhattan venue. My first impressions of Terminal 5 are that, despite some strange and disorientating camera angles, it does look like a really cool and grungy little building. However, you can immediately see that it’s architecture and interior design make it wholly inappropriate for a live wrestling show. It’s simply not wide or high enough and you can clearly see that outside pf the first few rows of floor seats, the first row balcony and the stage seating ,that the lines of sight to the ring are abysmal. The show was a total sell-out and a large number of people came away bitterly disappointed at a near-total inability to see the ring properly and comfortably. ROH thinks they can solve this with a slightly modified set-up for the next time they run this building for Best In The World 2015. Having been to my fair share of wrestling shows over the years, and having been to more than my fair share of live concerts in venues like Terminal 5, I have to be honest and say that I’m sceptical. Fingers crossed they do though because it does look cool on television and a core, stable, accessible New York City venue remains absolutely critical to Ring Of Honor’s success.
Mark Briscoe vs Caprice Coleman vs Jimmy Jacobs vs Hanson
This match stands as a particularly sad indictment of Delirious’ substandard booking. We have the perennially popular Mark Briscoe who hasn’t advanced or evolved one iota in 2014 and has spent all of it loosely feuding with The Kingdom or stuck on repeat in the same comedy routine. Caprice Coleman has been stuck in a holding pattern for even longer – and hasn’t done anything since before Final Battle last year when the C&C WrestleFactory broke up. Jimmy Jacobs is an exceptional worker and a phenomenal talker…so naturally he has spent all year playing the back-up dancer to the likes of BJ Whitmer, Roderick Strong, Adam Page and even Tadarius Thomas. Hanson is a legitimate prospect ROH somehow managed to recruit this year. He has grown in stature, confidence and ability as 2014 progressed, culminating in a killer November which saw him deliver an MOTYC on TV with AJ Styles and go to the 2014 Survival Of The Fittest finals. The fact that all four of these guys have NOTHING to do on the biggest show of the year, so get tossed into a meaningless fourway, is exceptionally sad.
The lack of interest in some of these guys is alarming, to the extent that Mark and Caprice start the match in almost total silence. Jacobs ends their rather awkward exchange by forcing his way in and demanding he get to wrestle Hanson…who swats him away nonchalantly. Question for fans – which of Kevin Kelly’s Hanson nicknames is more uncomfortable: ‘War Beard’ or ‘Beard Of Prey’? Coleman 619’s around the ringpost at Hanson, who refuses to go down and even catches Jacobs as he attempts a tope too. Briscoe eventually takes the big man down with the blockbuster off the apron. Caprice looks really sluggish and off his game, to the extent that every spot he attempts looks a little uncomfortable and uncoordinated. Jacobs gives him an awkward landing by tossing him off the top rope but is still unable to make any kind of impact when in the ring with Hanson. At last he lands the rebound cutter, and even then doesn’t get long to celebrate before Mark is on him with the Uncle Mule Kick. Spear by Jacobs…before he attempts the same move on Hanson and is effortlessly lifted into a gutwrench powerbomb. Cartwheel lariat flattens Briscoe…before he turns into Coleman’s One Inch Punch. Standing super rana from Coleman to Mark followed by the Trinity on Jacobs! TOPE SUICIDA BY HANSON! SPIN KICK OF DOOM! Hanson pins Coleman at 10:44
Rating – ** – It was slow to get going, and really hurt by Coleman who was well short of his best. However, once things did pick up the crowd really got into proceedings and I came away thinking that Hanson looked really impressive – and won the crowd over in his NYC debut. Given that Mark is permanently popular, Jacobs is a permanent afterthought and Coleman is a permanent enhancement talent, Hanson was the one that needed protecting here. Everyone did a great job putting him over. I am cautiously looking forward to seeing what happens with him in 2015. Will he continue to improve and breakout as he has done recently, or will he get stuck into the never-ending midcard cycle of bad booking like Cedric Alexander and ACH?
Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer remain behind after the match since their protégé is up next. Jimmy presents it as an opportunity for Adam Page, whereas Whitmer is much more forthright. He forcibly snatches the microphone from Jimmy and announces that Page will be a full member of The Decade after he wins tonight…
Adam Page vs Roderick Strong
This is one of the matches I’m most looking forward to on the entire card. It helps that we have an actual storyline behind it of course, but mostly because I really believe Page has a lot of talent. He’s rarely had a bad match since he’s been in ROH, and even when he’s been in one more often than not his own personal performance is decent. He’s been stuck trying to grab a brass ring or do anything of substance for a long time. The slow burn on his development as a Decade young boy has been one of the more interesting stories of the year. Hell, despite a lack of any real focus AND having to carry TD Thomas, The Decade as a group have been amongst the most interesting things in Ring Of Honor in 2014. At the Florida TV tapings Strong finally left the group when Whitmer and Page turned on him. The former World Champion had vehemently refused Page’s help in matches multiple times, and now wants to teach the disrespectful youngster a lesson. Has Page matured an efficient and effective villain under the tutelage of Whitmer and Jacobs? Or will he learn the harshest lesson of all with a pay-per-view beating at the hands of his third mentor?
Page just has a presence to him. Without saying a word, his mere body language evokes genuine heat. He has his own pink and black trunks now too, rather than the plain back of a traditional young boy. His inexperience shows in the opening moments though as he emphatically loses a strike exchange then gets dumped to the mat with a backbreaker. SOMERSAULT LARIAT OVER THE GUARDRAIL by Page after BJ stalked in to distract Roderick! Meanwhile on commentary Jimmy Jacobs reasserts his belief that The Decade is still himself, Whitmer and Roderick…and NOT Adam Page. Elevated swinging neckbreaker gets 2 for Adam who has started targeting the neck to set up for his Inverted Tombstone. Cue the Roderick Strong ‘gear switching’ gibberish from the commentators, as he gets into a straight-up fight with Whitmer. Shooting Star off the apron MISSES! APRON BACKBREAKER! Olympic Slam gets 2 for Mr ROH. Death By Roderick blocked into a BJ Whitmer-style powerslam by Page! Unfortunately he is slow to capitalise and eventually eats the Death By Roderick anyway. End Of Heartache countered…Page’s somersault lariat is ducked…into the Sick Kick for 2! Jacobs is now having to physically restrain Whitmer from interfering on Page’s behalf. Not that he needs it as he escapes the turnbuckle backbreaker and plants Roddy with an avalanche swinging neckbreaker. It weakens Strong enough for Page to hit the slingshot lariat again. END OF HEARTACHE NAILED! STRONGHOLD! Whitmer screams at Page not to tap…and he doesn’t. Page collapses into unconsciousness instead, meaning Strong wins by ref stoppage at 12:09
Rating – *** – I’m gutted they couldn’t find more than twelve minutes for these guys, because this was a hell of a match. They really needed more time just to kick things into the higher gears and really deliver something special. Having said that, Page’s performances over the last few shows have more than proven to Ring Of Honor that he really is a talent worth investing in. His work on the neck was superb, his little old-school villainous touches are really neat, and I love that he started doing BJ Whitmer moves as well. The constant interference from BJ really annoyed me as well. I really thing this would have gone over better, and given Page far more of a rub, if he’d have fought this by himself. The fans were 100% buying into his act. Fingers crossed for a rematch on 2015…
Jimmy helps Page to his feet and shakes his hand to signify that he now considers him an equal. On the floor Whitmer and Steve Corino have to be settled as they continue their never-ending, never-goes-anywhere squabble.
Michael Elgin vs Tommaso Ciampa
Another match which showcases the shocking mismanagement of resources by those at the wheel of Ring Of Honor’s creative. Both of these guys are good inside the ring. Neither are perhaps as polished as some would like them to be…but they are big, hard-hitting, solid workers who both deliver the sort of matches ROH fans traditionally enjoy watching. They’ve also met twice in high profile singles bouts – at Best In The World 2013 and Death Before Dishonor 12 – and delivered extremely strong performances each time. In essence, if managed correctly this should be a hell of a battle which fans were chomping at the bit to see. But instead people are hiding behind the sofas wondering whether this is going to be a trainwreck or not. Against common sense and against the wishes of a number of us fans, ROH forced the World Title onto Michael Elgin at the last pay-per-view even though he patently wasn’t ready and Cole, their ‘franchise player’ was really only just hitting his stride as champion. He was then further forced down our throats with the most obnoxious ‘fighting champion’ angle of all time…and the entire fanbase shrugged their shoulders with indifference. It wasn’t like they hated Elgin. They just didn’t care about him. Feeling the heat, Elgin further rubbed fans and management the wrong way with a few bizarre comments in interviews, childishly bickered with disgruntled fans on Twitter…then got himself marooned in Canada thanks to visa issues. The fourth wall-breaking, crybaby gimmick they’ve given him since his comeback has been a real mess too. Meanwhile Ciampa’s career has false-started more times than you could care to count. He got his undefeated streak over…then it got quietly dumped. He was HOT when he came back from injury, but rather than give him something to do ROH basically gave him zero storylines and watched his heat gradually fade. Now he’s in the midst of this ‘zero tolerance’ storyline…with no logical end point since he clearly isn’t getting the World Title, and it seems extremely unlikely that they are building to a Ciampa/Nigel match either. With no logical end point or purpose to the story, as compelling as his character work has been, and as consistently good as his wrestling has been, fans just don’t know how to respond to him. The core plot here is ‘Nigel’s problem children collide’. Two disgruntled employees are let loose to take out all their frustrations on each other. Presumably the winner would instantly become a top World Title contender. But can their work inside the ring transcend the utter chaos that has been their creative direction over the past twelve months?
Elgin has new music, which fits his new character well. He is clearly in a sour mood and uses the Code Of Honor to kick-start a slugfest with his opponent. Never Ending Story clotheslines in the corner put Ciampa on the back foot…until he schoolboys Unbreakable into the turnbuckles for a Bare Knee Strike. The crowd cheer as Tommaso uses a testicular claw to counter the 60-Second Suplex, but in truth these two have been booked as weird tweener whiners for so long the whole thing elicits a rather awkward, sullen reaction. Elgin lands a somersault leg drop to the back of the head, followed by a Tiger Body Press for 2. The former World Champion positions the timekeeping table, but takes so long setting it up that Ciampa is able to come back at him with an Air Raid Crash on the apron. Nothing they do is getting any response at all. Even Elgin full on PASTING Tommaso with a spinning back fist to the back of the head gets nothing more than a courteous round of applause. Elgin Bomb for a heatless nearfall. He angrily Germans the Psychopath into the turnbuckles…but it’s completely no sold so he can hit Project Ciampa for 2. This is brutally bad. The two fight on the top rope with the table still lurking ominously below them…until Elgin grabs the initiative with a belly to belly superplex. He tries to pull his knee pads off a’la Tommaso, but can’t even do it properly so all impact is lost. Ciampa clocks him with a lariat…and a few rumbles of ‘boring’ can he heard. Buckle Bomb no sold….and Tommaso inadvertently clubs down the ref. Nigel McGuinness gets to his feet, prompting Ciampa to do some super bad-ass crawling around and begging. McGuinness walks out, Elgin lands another lariat. Double Arm DDT wins it for Elgin at 13:21
Rating – DUD – What a disastrous mess they made of this. As much as I like the work of both guys (particularly Ciampa) and as much as I’ve lampooned the booking for months, the actual wrestlers have to shoulder a lot of the blame for this. It was an AWFUL match, getting worse as it stretched endlessly on and on in front of a crowd who audibly didn’t give the tiniest and most shrivelled of of sh*ts. Of course it’s a tragedy that genuine talents like Elgin and Ciampa been so badly mismanaged, but this was as braindead and inanely moronic as any wrestling match I’ve watched recently. Nobody sold a damn, there was no intention of telling any kind of storyline. Even when the crowd clearly didn’t give a sh*t about their plodding exchange of ‘strong style’ spots, they just did it anyway. One of these guys needed to take charge here, and needed to stick his head above the parapet to try something different. This entire match was extremely uncomfortable to sit through. Watching two extremely talented young wrestlers misjudge a match so spectacularly was hard. Hearing a crowd audibly disinterested because the booker had spent months (years in Ciampa’s case) dragging their reputations through the gutter was harder still. It’s genuinely hard to see how either can be rebuilt in my opinion…
The Addiction/Cedric Alexander vs Young Bucks/ACH
All six of these guys have had pretty strong years in Ring Of Honor. Daniels and Kazarian returned to ROH in June, and despite being given nothing of any real substance, have continually turned in rather decent in-ring performances. Recently Chris Daniels in particular has started to recapture his very best form. The Young Bucks are the most over talents on the entire roster – including AJ. The Bullet Club gimmick, the ‘2 Sweet’ stuff, the merch, the highspots…they embody the raw excitement and outright fun that independent wrestling fans love to see. Their trilogy with reDRagon was outstanding and, like The Addiction, they will have eyes on getting back in the title hunt next year. Cedric and ACH are almost mirror images of each other. Each has consistently produced awesome matches. Cedric/Elgin, Cedric/AJ, Cedric/Strong, ACH/Briscoe, ACH/Lethal, ACH/Sydal…the list is pretty long. And they’ve both been perennially unable to break through and really establish themselves as main event players. Alexander won his feud with Roderick Strong then went absolutely nowhere as a result. ACH produced killer title challenges against both Jay Lethal and Jay Briscoe yet ends the year no closer to the top of the card than when he started. We have six of ROH’s 2014 MVP’s in one ring looking to stake their claim for a far better shake in 2015.
Cedric comes out wearing goggles and chicken-dancing like The Addiction…and is immediately upstaged as the Bucks reveal ACH as an honorary member of the Bullet Club for the night. The Bucks are genuinely so over fans chant ‘this is awesome’ simply because they’re booked. Alexander marks his turf with a crotch chop at Nick Jackson…and is promptly dispatched with a signature Jackson combo. The Addiction are in next to showcase their own considerable double-teaming ability. Matt gives Daniels the handspring back rake, and back flips on the floor holding Cedric into position for a PENALTY KICK from Nick! ACH does his own backflip right into a DOUBLE POWERBOMB ON THE FLOOR by Daniels and Kaz! They do their best to cut ACH off from his partners, but barely keep him in for more than a minute before he nails Frankie with the tornado kick. TORNADO DDT TO THE FLOOR BY NICK! SUPERKICK FROM MATT TO CEDRIC! TOP ROPE MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! STEREO TOPE SUICIDAS! ARABIAN PRESS BY DANIELS! AIR JORDAN BY ACH (just about)! Matt flips out of an Angel’s Wings attempt, leaving Daniels prone for a flying double stomp from ACH for 2. Michinoku Driver gets Alexander a nearfall too. Assisted Shiranui by the Bucks takes him out…and all six men bundle into the ring. Kazarian hits the slingshot cutter on Nick, then eats a slingshot flatliner himself by ACH! ANGEL’S WINGS NAILED! SUPERKICK FROM NICK TO DANIELS! ALL SIX DOWN! MONKEY FLIP/EARLY ONSET ALZHEIMER’S COMBO BY ACH AND THE BUCKS! BEST MOONSAULT EVER…BLOCKED! TRIPLE SUPERKICK NAILED! IED FLURRY BY ALEXANDER! TREE OF WOE SUPERKICK ON HIM! MELTZER DRIVER! 450 SPLASH BY ACH! Team Bullet Club pick up the win at 12:42
Rating – **** – The perfect dose of wonderful nonsense, and the ideal tonic to reinvigorate your interest in the show after the last match. The difference between this and Elgin/Ciampa couldn’t have been more stark. Various factors combined to make that one so chronically hard to enjoy. This was just a whole lot of fun, and a welcome reminder of why we all watch pro-wrestling in the first place. They weren’t here to tell stories, nor did the audience want them to. The fans wanted to see flips, spills, dives and superkicks – and they got all of that in abundance. Credit to the big-name part-timers (although personally I’d call Daniels and Kaz pretty much full-time at this point) because they struck the perfect balance between getting their own crowd-pleasing schtick in whilst letting the core ROH guys (ACH and Cedric) get plenty of time in the spotlight themselves. ACH in particular was superb, effortlessly combining with the Bucks on countless occasions. In 2013 Ring Of Honor repaired their relationship with the Young Bucks. In 2014 they finally realised just how marketable and just how much of a draw they are. In 2015, ROH needs to develop their relationship with the Bucks even further and fork out whatever money they want to get them on every show possible when they’re not in New Japan. They are red-hot right now, and should be one of Ring Of Honor’s critical USP’s versus the likes of WWE, TNA and WWNLive.
Moose vs RD Evans
At Glory By Honor the much fabled ‘New Streak’ came to an end. Having delighted fans around the globe and defeated all manner of exotic and far-fetched opponent, RD Evans put it all on the line to challenge Jay Lethal for the Television Championship…only to lose it all thanks to his supposed tag partner Moose (and his supposed ‘sign guy’ Ramon). Revealing himself as Stokely Hathaway, Moose’s manager revealed that he and Moose were acting on orders from Prince Nana – who still held a grudge for the way RD cruelly ended The Embassy a couple of years before. With the Streak now over, Evans has nothing but pride to fight for. He comes to Final Battle looking only for revenge against the former national football star who destroyed his dream and legacy.
Nothing says ‘I’m a heel’ like a theme song which makes the crowd chant for you. Moose smirks as he offers his former tag partner a handshake, and the match begins with Evans slapping the grin right off his face. He gets caught going for a pescado though, allowing Moose to F-5 him into the ringpost. The Barrister is battered against the barricades, as behind the wrestlers Stokely and Nana dance with delight. Veda Scott totters down the entrance stairs still looking every bit as upset as she was the last time we saw her, at Glory By Honor. ‘Moose looking more and more comfortable with every match’ – Steve Corino, as Moose looks entirely uncomfortable in a butt ugly takedown. Things get worse as Evans botches a springboard move THREE F*CKING TIMES! THREE TIMES?! Seriously you buffoon, if you f it up once just cut your losses! RD just ended his Ring Of Honor career in ten seconds. The crowd didn’t care about this match anyway, and are now snickering like school kids as Evans tries to get them back onside with the Scorpion Death Drop/Deathlock combo. Veda rats Nana and Stokely out as they try to feed Moose a chair then hops into the ring trying to stop him giving RD the spear. In the world’s most obvious turn Veda gives Evans a SUPER-TELEGRAPHED low blow. Moose hits the rolling spear and wins at 07:37
Rating – DUD – Just when you were back into the show, this suckfest comes along and kills it for you all over again. I’m not sure anyone was really looking forward to this, and sure enough it was horrendously ugly from the outset. Watching Moose get hand-fed Ring Of Honor opportunities that other, more talented, wrestlers would kill for simply because he used to play NFL is painful…and he was actually not the worst part of this. I’ve enjoyed RD Evans in Ring Of Honor. He was fantastic as the colourful, sleazy lawyer in The Embassy. He was so charismatic he made QT Marshall tolerable. He busted his ass getting the corny ‘New Streak’ over, and gave a hell of a performance in that angle’s conclusion at Glory By Honor. But he signed his own death warrant with this shambolic display on the biggest show of the year. That botch was genuinely among the most farcical in-ring errors I’ve ever seen. He is a seriously experienced and perfectly capable wrestler, but ROH don’t care about him. He’s a skinny comedy worker who SBG never really wanted to be anything more than a manager. He’s not a former NFL star. Cocking up so spectacularly, on such a major stage, was all the ammunition needed to jettison him. He’s not been back since…
Jay Lethal vs Matt Sydal – ROH TV Title Match
The backstory behind this is that Martini and Lethal wanted to recruit Sydal to the House Of Truth. He humoured them and listened to their offer…but when the time came to close the deal he declined the handshake and instead demanded a shot at the Television Championship. Such is Jay’s desire to prove that the TV Title is the top prize in ROH, that he accepted. After all, Sydal is a recognisable face having spent years with the WWE so represents a pretty major scalp. On Sydal’s part, he comes into this seriously lacking in any kind of momentum. The quality of his wrestling since his return cannot be questioned…but after sustaining high profile losses to AJ Styles, Adam Cole (Jay Lethal had a hand in that defeat) and at Survival Of The Fittest, is he truly in the sort of form and condition needed to dethrone a dominant champion?
The champ goes right for the Lethal Injection in the midst of a dynamic little back and forth, but Matt dodges the attack and retreats to the corner. Likewise Lethal leaves the ring as his challenger lines up an early Sydal Press. Realising the pace is far too quick for his liking, Jay slows it right down to stomp Matt in the corner…but then promptly makes the mistake of giving him some distance so he can build up a head of steam all over again. Randy Savage Axehandle countered with kicks, shortly before Sydal scores a close nearfall with the standing moonsault. Lethal gets back on his game by popping him legs-first into the ropes, snapping the hamstring then giving him a real rough landing. Martini interferes too and distracts Matt for long enough for Lethal to position the rolling tope suicidas. The dumb ass New York idiots have started the ‘twinkies’ sh*t up again. How about ROH starts running their biggest shows in a different market and denies these self-entitled pricks the opportunity to make asses of themselves? I can rant about this because the action has grinded to a meandering halt with Lethal rather aimlessly grinding on his wounded opponent. Eventually Sydal double stomps his torso, though of course he is too wounded to follow up. Slice gets 2…before Jay busts out an awesome counter to his running corner lariat and drags him right into the Lethal Combination. Hail To The King blocked, so he gives him a POP-UP NECKBREAKER instead. Now HTTK scores and gets the champ a 2-count. Lethal Injection dodged though…into the Meteora. Sydal Press nailed…so Martini pulls Todd Sinclair out of the ring. For f*cks sake Delirious, you are sh*t at your job. Sydal kicks the Book Of Truth into Martini’s face…but as he tries to give him the Sydal Press as well Jay catches him for a MID-AIR LETHAL INJECTION! HOLY SH*T! LETHAL INJECTION AGAIN! Jay retains at 15:02
Rating – ** – This current Jay Lethal reign is undeniably the hottest the ROH TV Title has ever been since it’s inception. Therefore it’s a real shame that it’s two showings on national ppv thus far have been major disappointments. At Best In The World the half-decent Lethal/Taven feud was sold down the river for a bunch of lazily-booked BS involving Truth handcuffed to the ring. Here tonight we were given two talented workers and plenty of time to play with…but they just never clicked. Sydal has been great since his comeback, but he seemed below his best and completely unfocused – bringing nothing major to the table and just seemed to be hanging around until he could hit a few of his signature spots at the end. And after interference or shenanigans in the Strong/Page, Elgin/Ciampa and Moose/Evans match, the last thing this show needed is yet more interference and outside parties playing major roles in the conclusion of one of it’s marquee encounters. Delirious is an abysmal booker for things like this, and always seems to panic and resort to Russo-esque finishes to big matches on ppv because he can’t think of anything better and doesn’t have the courage or confidence to put one guy clean over the other. Having said that, spot of the whole night HAS to be the mid-air Lethal Injection to counter the Sydal Press. That was an amazing moment.
reDRagon vs Time Splitters – ROH Tag Title Match
This is billed as the ‘rubber match’ in a trilogy between these two teams, as ROH piggybacks onto a couple of really decent matches in New Japan. Most recently reDRagon defeated Shelley and Kushida to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles. Now the Splitters come to Fish and O’Reilly’s home promotion of ROH looking to take some gold right back off them.
O’Reilly and Kushida work the mat from the bell and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s all exhibition-style, flashy stuff of course but it oozes quality. The veteran instincts of Shelley soon come into play though, toning down Kushida’s flashy matwork and helping him to simply isolate Kyle. RUNNING KNEE OFF THE APRON from Shelley to Fish! He sails back into the ring to hit a basement flying crossbody on O’Reilly too. Kyle resorts to his favourite tactic and snaps one of Shelley’s arms over the top rope…and he doesn’t even get a chance to get up from that before Fish steams in and arm wrenches him into the apron. Instantly the former leader of Generation Next is in real trouble and has to cling to a rope just to evade Arm-ageddon. If that wasn’t enough, O’Reilly also finds time to dish out a running knee strike into Kushida’s ribcage as well to prevent him from trying to assist his ailing partner. From nothing Alex hits Shellshock into the turnbuckles…but just when he looks to make the vital tag to Kushida, O’Reilly pops up to drag the Japanese competitor away from the ring. Fish is accidentally crotched moments later though, finally allowing Alex to tag out. reDRagon try to team up on Kushida…so he folds them both up with an O’Conner Roll/German suplex combo. You really can tell Kushida was trained by Yoshihiro Tajiri just from the way he stalks about the ring. He batters O’Reilly out of the ring with a rolling heel kick…as Fish spears Shelley into the guardrails. SUPERKICK to block Kyle’s missile dropkick off the apron! TOP ROPE SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR BY KUSHIDA! Doomsday Dropkick gets 2 for the Time Splitters. I-94 on O’Reilly blocked into Total Elimination by the champs! Chasing The Dragon blocked…but O’Reilly throttles Kushida anyway with a guillotine choke! FUJIWARA ARMBAR ON SHELLEY! Kushida saves him so he can hit Sliced Bread #2! I-94 NAILED ON O’REILLY…FOR 2! SUPERNOVA PRESS COUNTERED TO ARM-AGEDDON! DIVING HEADBUTT TO THE SHOULDER BY FISH! SHELLEY SAVES WITH A FLYING DOUBLE STOMP! Axe & Smash/Saito suplex combo on Kushida gets 2, and soon after reDRagon are laying waste to Shelley too with the backbreaker/knee drop combo. Still they can’t hit Chasing The Dragon though. MMA STRIKES BY KYLE! KUSHIDA NO SELLS AND KNOCKS HIS MOUTHGUARD OUT WITH A SUPERKICK! SOMERSAULT PESCADO BY FISH! PELE KICK BY KUSHIDA…NO SOLD INTO THE JAWBREAKER LARIAT BY O’REILLY! CHASING THE DRAGON! KUSHIDA FREAKING KICKS OUT! ARM-AGEDDON AGAIN! Kushida taps at 18:11 – reDRagon retain.
Rating – **** – Some of the undercard may have been inconsistent, and some of the booking on this show may have frustrated you…but once again a group of extremely talented wrestlers have stepped up to salvage proceedings with an outstanding match. reDRagon have been phenomenal all year, so it was great to see them round out 2014’s live events with one final killer defence. You could tell these guys had wrestled each other a few times by this point, and most of their exchanges were so very fluent and effortless. Maybe Shelley could have sold the arm a little better, and maybe at times things got a little too convoluted and choreographed, but on the whole this felt like a really special match and a clear showstealer based on what we’ve seen thus far. I really hope ROH can nail down Alex Shelley for some more dates in 2015. He is such a special talent and it really feels like he has unfinished business with this promotion as far as becoming a bona fide singles main event level player.
Jay Briscoe vs Adam Cole – ROH World Title Fight Without Honor
This feud stretches all the way back to Border Wars 2013, when Jay successfully defended the title against Adam Cole…who on that occasion just about kept his frustrations in check and restrained himself from assaulting Briscoe. Later that year, at Death Before Dishonor 11, he didn’t show the same restraint. Forced to relinquish the World Championship thanks to injury Jay reluctantly, but sportingly, presented Cole with the belt after he won the World Title tournament…only for Adam to cheap shot him. That started a war which continues to rage to this day. Briscoe returned from injury so unhinged that he’d created his own ‘Real World Title’ because he felt robbed of the actual championship. He vehemently pursued a rematch all the way to Supercard Of Honor 8, where blood was spilt and bodies were battered when they competing in Ladder War 5. Cole won that evening, inflicting a super-rare singles defeat on Jay Briscoe. Adam would go on to lose the World Title to Michael Elgin at Best In The World 2014, before Briscoe would gain a measure of revenge by becoming only the second ever two-time champion when he defeated Elgin at All Star Extravaganza 6. Cole, who was banned from challenging whilst Elgin held the gold, sprung into action and once again chased his old nemesis for the gold. Flanked by Kingdom colleagues Mike Bennett, Matt Taven and Maria Kanellis, his group still hold Jay’s ‘Real World Title’ belt (now rechristened the ‘Title Of Love’)…and as the Briscoes fought a violent battle with his friends at Survival Of The Fittest weekend, Cole himself won the 2014 SOTF tournament to officially proclaim himself #1 contender. Tonight these two go to war once more. The hatred between them will never be settled, hence they do battle tonight in a Fight Without Honor. Can the cunning, resourceful, resilient and skilful challenger, without Taven, Bennett and Maria tonight, find a way to defeat the violent, super-experienced, bruising World Champion?
In a last-minute mind game, Cole has reserved a couple of front row seats for Jay’s parents…who aren’t here tonight because Cole assaulted them. It would probably have made sense to put that on TV before the ppv. He goes straight for a superkick on Briscoe, only for him to shake it off and hit a JUMPING JAY DRILLER! FOR 2! The challenger tries to flee but in a Fight Without Honor he’s no safer on the outside. Jay DOUBLE STOMPS HIM THROUGH A TABLE! Cole carried a legitimate shoulder injury into this, and it seems to have absorbed the brunt of the impact on that spot causing him to wince in pain and hold his arm limp by his side. As he struggles to recover Briscoe pulls out a staple gun…but spends so long posing with it that Adam gets time to recover and belts him with a chair. He grabs the ‘Reserved for Mr Briscoe’ sign and STAPLES IT TO JAY’S HEAD! He’s wrestling with paper stapled to his damn head! For the first time this evening the crowd are seriously invested in something and erupt into a bloodthirsty roar as Jay legit rips the staple out of his skull and pulls another table from under the ring. It takes too long for him to set up though, allowing Adam to scoop him up into the cradlebreaker. FALCON ARROW THROUGH TWO CHAIRS BY JAY! Once again he takes too long preparing a weapon – this time taking an age to retrieve a Singapore cane, meaning Cole has time to snatch it from him and absolutely NAIL him with it. Cole targets the legs, whacking them with the cane then trying to Figure 4 them around the ringpost. Unfortunately he leaves the cane within Briscoe’s reach and he freaking HAMMERS him with it. Cole is busted open now, and actually leaves the ring to be tended to by doctors and medical staff. It’s all a work for the New York fans I guess, and it actually works because the crowd HATES the gimmick and are therefore delighted when Jay ploughs through all the medical personnel and continues the fight. As Kevin Kelly whines about ‘state commission protocol’ Briscoe gets a nearfall with the Rude Awakening. He thinks about a superplex through a table on the floor…COLE SUPERKICKS HIM THROUGH IT INSTEAD! Jay crawls back into the ring to be met with a title belt shot to the head for 2. Shades of Death Before Dishonor 11 as he superkicks Jay in the back of the head whilst holding the World Title belt, but he fails to put the champ away even after landing the Florida Key. Panama Sunrise COUNTERED TO A RUNNING DVD THROUGH A TABLE! Determined to put an end to this, Jay pulls out a bag of tacks. Cole really doesn’t like that, so low blows him then SUPERKICKS A BUNCH OF TACKS IN HIS MOUTH! JAY BACK DROPS HIM IN THE TACKS! JAY DRILLER NAILED! COLE KICKS OUT! Jay lays the title belt across the middle of the ring, giving Cole a good look at it before he JAY DRILLERS HIM INTO IT! Briscoe retains at 21:18
Rating – **** – A suitably violent, fitting conclusion to this chapter in the ongoing rivalry between these two men. They packed in some of the most violent spots we’ve seen since the Sinclair takeover, they spilt blood and they worked their asses off to entertain the fans. I understand Cole had been competing with a shoulder injury for a little while at least, but to me this match was the first time it’s been seriously noticeable in an ROH ring. There were times when he was visibly clutching it to his side and there were only two or three times throughout the whole match where he actually did something which involved physically lifting Jay. The point I’m getting at is that Cole was clearly a little limited in what he was able to do, which did technically lower the quality a little bit from the Ladder War (which I preferred), but nonetheless meant producing a match this good was a remarkable achievement. At times it did feel a little mechanical and clinical though, and lacked the sort of raw emotion I think it needed to truly turn this into a great match. Perhaps due to Cole’s injury he wasn’t as vocal or physically charismatic as he often is, and I didn’t quite feel the heat and hatred oozing out of them as I did in New Orleans. I appreciated they kept it clean and strayed away from too much of the overbooking which has been a hallmark of Delirious’ main events. After at least four matches on tonight’s card ended with some kind of shenanigans it was great to see a high profile match settled cleanly and undisputedly inside the ring.
Tape Rating – *** – A strange pay-per-view to sit through, but ultimately this show was another fair reflection of where Ring Of Honor is as a promotion at present. Once again some of the booking decisions left me scratching my head. The lack of clean finishes on the undercard frustrated me, and it was truly a sad and upsetting spectacle watching the rotten fruits of prolonged periods of poor management when Michael Elgin and Tommaso Ciampa stunk up the joint. But, as they have so many times in 2014, when poor creative direction threatened to completely derail your enjoyment of an event there were a core group of wrestlers who stepped up to produce some incredible matches and redeem the show. Just when you were ready to vent your fury after the Elgin/Ciampa fiasco, up pop The Addiction, the Young Bucks, ACH and Cedric Alexander to deliver a killer midcard sprint that you couldn’t help but enjoy. Just when RD Evans and Moose had killed your passion for wrestling, and you were still reeling from your disappointment at the underwhelming Lethal/Sydal match, reDRagon and the Time Splitters enter the ring and absolutely KILL IT in a storming semi-main. And with the success of the show hanging in the balance Jay Briscoe and Adam Cole damn near killed each other in a strong headline act. As usual with Ring Of Honor this year, some people are seriously over-rating this show. BUT, if you can tolerate sitting through a few misses there are some pretty big hits to go around here…
Top 3 Matches
3) Young Bucks/ACH vs The Addiction/Cedric Alexander (****)
2) Jay Briscoe vs Adam Cole (****)
1) reDRagon vs Time Splitters (****)