ROH 366 – Glory By Honor 13 – 15th November 2014
Glory By Honor feels like the ‘big event’ that Sinclair don’t know what to do with. Last year they converted it to a set of TV tapings with mixed success, and this year it’s tucked in so close behind Final Battle that it doesn’t feel like more than a marginally prestigious house show. In fact, this year it doesn’t even take place in one of ROH’s traditional ‘A markets’ (i.e. New York, Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia etc). But having said all that, I actually really like the line-up for this show. Although the result of the main event is a formality, ACH has been on a role inside the ropes recently so the prospect of him challenging for the World Title in his home state becomes rather enticing. Below that there is some crud (by that I’m obviously referring to Romantic Touch), but there’s actually a fairly stacked undercard too. reDRagon defending the Tag Titles against The Kingdom, The Addiction splitting off into high profile singles matches against Roderick Strong and Adam Cole respectively, plus a high stakes TV Title showdown as RD Evans puts his ‘New Streak’ to the ultimate test by challenging Jay Lethal. I’ve not heard a great deal of buzz about this event but I have high hopes for it anyway. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino are in San Antonio, TX.
Romantic Touch vs Tommaso Ciampa
Two things to be positive about here – firstly we get the Romantic Touch match out of the way early, and secondly he’s wrestling Ciampa who is good enough to potentially carry him to something passable. Tommaso’s sanity is really being tested after controversial eliminations from both the Champions vs All Stars match and the Survival Of The Fittest finals, and is straining at the very limits of Nigel McGuinness’ ‘zero tolerance’ leash. He badly wants to get his hands on Michael Elgin after the events of a week ago in Toledo, so will plan on steamrollering RT on the way.
Touch brings a few pairs of panties to the ring tucked into his trucks. Tommaso decides to sniff and chew on them but declines the offer of a rose. RT gets some revenge by acting like a sexual predator and groping him…but Ciampa is so unhinged he actually finds it funny and starts producing his own pelvic gyrations as he roughs up the masked man. Snuggle-monkey flip BLOCKED into a brutal running lariat, then an even more brutal wedgie. He threatens the ref with a wedgie as well but isn’t permitted to under the terms of his zero tolerance reinstatement. Ciampa shoves Touch’s rose down his trunks next, competing for several moments with it sticking out of his crotch until Romantic drags it out and gives him a belly to belly suplex for 2. Last Chancery briefly locked in (another ode to his former trainer and mentor Austin Aries) but way too close to the ropes. Air Raid Crash gets Ciampa a 2. He then tucks the remnants of the rose into his kneepad and knees Touch in the face. PROJECT CIAMPA ON THE ROSE! BUT IT KICKS OUT AT 2! Ciampa vs a small plant is more entertaining than Rhett Titus wrestling! Touch tries to capitalise on Tommaso’s weird antics by dropkicking him in the head for 2. Tommaso has seen enough and finishes things with the Sicilian Stretch at 08:12
Rating – * – I won’t pretend I didn’t like this as an inoffensive comedy opener. Tommaso Ciampa is really good at this sort of thing in other promotions, so it was nice to see him show a glimpse of his fun-loving side in Ring Of Honor. However, this was a totally inappropriate time for him to do so. I understand he’s a ‘psychopath’ and is mentally unbalanced. But why on earth would he come out laughing and joking with Romantic Touch just a week after he got screwed out of a World Title? Last time he failed in his quest to be World Champion he went so mental that he started assaulting commentators and ring announcers. The lack of consistency here is absolutely infuriating. The fact that the match was more entertaining when he wrestled an inanimate object than it was when Titus was involved should tell you all you need to know and Rhett’s career prospects.
Moose vs Hanson vs BJ Whitmer vs Mark Briscoe
This is quite strange bunch of guys to put together. Whitmer has beef with Moose for costing he and Jimmy Jacobs a match at Survival Of The Fittest, and he’s also not a big fan of Briscoe since Mark refused to endorse The Decade’s methods a few months back. Outside of that this will just be four rugged dudes looking to kick some ass and leave with the winner’s share of the purse. Moose has looked dominant since signing at Best In The World, but Hanson has just as much momentum after memorably making it to the final two of Survival Of The Fittest last week. Despite these guys being as far away from luchadors as you can get, apparently this under lucha rules meaning you can tag out simply by leaving the ring.
Mark Briscoe gets so many streamers that his entrance looks like CM Punk’s farewell. Hanson shunts through both him and Whitmer and has an early staredown with the equally sizeable Moose. BJ forces Hanson out of the ring before they get a chance to square off though. Five minutes in and not a lot has happened, to such an extent that Corino and Kelly have started completed ignoring the match to talk about wrestling in the 70’s and 80’s. Whitmer appears to be doing his best to avoid taking punishment from either of the big men…which leads to Mark taking plenty of abuse. Finally Moose celebrates hitting Briscoe with a diving headbutt and presents BJ with an opportunity to clip his knees. Corino praises Mark for taking wrestling more seriously recently…as he bounces off the ropes making karate noises and giving Whitmer a tomahawk chop. Whitmer throws back with some crossfaces across the throat, then stands there and does nothing. Because this match has been so ‘action packed’ thus far he needs a rest or something. Hanson has stood on the apron for most of this match and literally watched all of his post-SOTF momentum simply drain away. It takes more than ten minutes for him to do anything – cartwheeling into a lariat on BJ. He scores with a tope suicida as well and business then finally picks up with a somersault plancha from Moose. TOP ROPE MOONSAULT BY MARK! Rolling spear from Moose to Hanson, as Whitmer and Briscoe desperately battle each other in a race to hit their signature suplex. Redneck Kung Fu from ‘serious’ Mark…but Hanson totally no sells it to hit the Spin Kick Of Doom for the win at a painfully long 13:55
Rating – * – The last three minutes were actually pretty good, but for ten minutes before that absolutely NOTHING HAPPENED! Moose and Hanson stood around and looked threatening without doing much. BJ Whitmer kind of acted like a heel without doing very much. And Mark Briscoe did his whole comedy ‘chicken’ routine…but also didn’t actually do very much. There is no point in letting your wrestlers have such a long time allowance if you’re not going to let them fill it with anything substantial. None of these guys are considered amongst the best ‘wrestlers’ in the company. None of them are interesting enough to carry ten minutes of basic, time-killing spots in any sort of meaningful way. I’ve seen some insane 3*+ ratings for this out there – and I have absolutely no idea what people saw in this. I like three of the four guys involved (sorry Moose) but this was awful to sit through. At least Delirious had enough booking sense about him to follow up on Hanson’s recent upturn in fortunes by putting him over.
We’re in Raymond Rowe’s home town so he joins Hanson in his celebrations. He puts his tag partner over, and has his sights set on taking over ROH when he gets medical clearance. Michael Elgin crashes another show and complains that he isn’t even booked (just a year after he beat every champion in Ring Of Honor at Glory By Honor 12). He tries to create tension in War Machine then clocks Hanson from behind with a microphone before walking out.
SIDENOTE – Elgin’s new gimmick isn’t particularly clever or inspired. In fact, having him come out as a big, sulking man-child doesn’t seem like overly brilliant booking at all. However, I am finding his interviews and general direction far more preferable now than I was before when he was being shoved down my throat as World Champion. He’s much easier to buy into as a petulant ass, and he’s never had that much of a problem as far as his actual wrestling is concerned. As grating as this new angle is, hopefully it will at least generate a connection with the audience…
Roderick Strong vs Frankie Kazarian
He may not be a member of The Decade anymore, but Strong still has to deal with the consequences of his actions whilst he was there. As part of the group he objected to individuals like Kaz coming to ROH after leaving a major promotion (TNA in his case) looking to make a quick buck at the expense of guys such as himself who have stuck loyally with the company for countless years. Personal issues with Whitmer, Page and Jacobs mean he isn’t in The Decade anymore, but you can still be certain that he won’t be a fan of Frankie being in ROH and will want to beat him to prove his superiority.
Corino and Kelly really are flogging this ‘Roddy changes gear’ point until you can’t take it anymore. Ironically, for all their love of Strong it’s actually Kazarian who controls most of the opening minutes largely thanks to his own ability to quicken the pace and dish out explosive offensive bursts. He gets a nearfall with a sweet hiptoss/neckbreaker sequence. Strong is completely unable to change any gears or even lay a glove on Frankie for a long while. Eventually he gets more aggressive and takes the fight out of the ring where he is able to boot Kaz into the railings. It is the fierce striking of the former World Champion that finally start inflicting some real damage. He viciously chops his opponent into the corner and once he’s collapsed to the mat at last Strong is able to start working the midsection. Frankie’s skill is such that Roderick isn’t able to bust out an assortment of backbreakers – he has to settle with some grounded stretches. Only after spending a couple of minutes with that does he manage to scoop Kazarian out of the corner into a cradle backbreaker for 2. Kaz annoyingly opts to totally ignore that work with his comeback though, and launches effortlessly into a slingshot DDT. He starts countering Strong’s trademark moves to show he’s done some scouting, then stays on the neck with a swinging neckbreaker. Roderick lands the Olympic Slam…but is noticeably slow to cover to sell the damage sustained throughout the contest. BJ Whitmer and Adam Page are now watching proceedings from the aisle and check out Strong getting a nearfall with Death By Roderick. Gibson Driver blocked into a SLINGSHOT ACE CRUSHER! Strong took that really nastily. He evades the Flux Capacitor with more chops and converts to a turnbuckle backbreaker for 2. Fade To Black countered to the Stronghold! Then Kazarian counters right back to a small package. The two men crash into each other then fall to the floor…where Page and Whitmer are waiting to ambush Roderick. The referee doesn’t see it and Frankie picks up the win with the Tomikaze at 15:00
Rating – *** – After a poor start to the show featuring a number of substandard workers, finally the real talent arrives and delivers a match of genuine substance. Kazarian doesn’t always get as much credit as he should for being a sound singles performer, and I thought he more than held up his end of the bargain with Strong here. Both men could have sold a little better for their opponents, but the whole match was fought with an intensity and quality befitting of two high class veterans of the independent scene. Kazarian focused his work on Strong’s neck, Roddy worked the back as he normally does, and that played right through to the finish with Kazarian hitting his version of the Unprettier to win. The Decade interference wasn’t welcome, but it was low key enough so as not to damage the match too much…and I really hope Strong/Page at Final Battle delivers the goods so welcome any device to put some heat on that one.
reDRagon vs Michael Bennett/Matt Taven – ROH Tag Title Match
The Kingdom of Bennett and Taven haven’t been teaming together for long, and haven’t won many matches at all, but it’s fair to say they’ve more than earned this title shot by virtue of their violent No DQ victory over the Briscoes at Survival Of The Fittest weekend. It wasn’t without controversy, but a victory of that magnitude in such a brutal match deserved a major reward…and since Fish and O’Reilly have steamrollered basically every other team in Ring Of Honor there isn’t much competition left for them. They are tentatively scheduled to face New Japan’s ‘Time Splitters’ duo at Final Battle, such is the dearth quality opposition for them on the Ring Of Honor roster. Speaking of NJPW, reDRagon are fresh back off a big tour with the promotion which saw them win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag straps
San Antonio ordains the champions as the de facto babyfaces in this one, and give them a genuine heroes welcome. Just when you think Kevin Kelly couldn’t get any worse (or any more nerdy) he actually stops commentating to chastise a fan for swearing. I seriously can’t stand him. Despite their lack of experience as a team, The Kingdom are actually the better team in the early going as reDRagon get carried away with the love their receiving from the fans. It’s not long before the champs go back to their old antics, break a few rules, manipulate the referee a little bit and start roughing up Bennett. Even Taven can’t help his buddy – breaking up minutes of abuse on him only to be trapped in Arm-ageddon by O’Reilly. Since these are both heel teams, they take turns to cheat with Bennett and Fish repeatedly firing off pot-shots at one of the legal men from the apron. Inside the ring Kyle and Matt try to rake each other’s eyes…before Maria gets involved and trips O’Reilly into a springboard enzi. The interventions of Bennett’s wife hands The Kingdom the advantage and leaves O’Reilly isolated from his partner. I like that a lot of their offence is zoned in on the back. Bennett and Taven are clearly relishing getting to show off their personalities in this current run but it’s nice to see that their wrestling remains crisp and focused too. To that end Bennett gets a nearfall with his spinebuster. Soon afterwards it is Bennett’s clumsiness that costs his team as he accidentally socks Taven with a clothesline and opens up the window for Kyle to make the hot tag. Chasing The Dragon blocked with a spinning heel kick by Taven…who then damn near kills himself with a wild TOPE SUICIDA! SUPERKICK by Bennett to block O’Reilly’s missile dropkick off the apron. Twist Of Fate/Swanton Bomb combo gets 2! O’Reilly Axe & Smashes Bennett into a BACK DROP DRIVER from Fish! Climax COUNTERED to an anklelock! ARM-AGEDDON ON BENNETT! Maria Kanellis interrupts, openly screaming that she’s only on the apron because she doesn’t want to lose. It nearly causes her to eat Chasing The Dragon before Mike saves her with a spear. Spike Piledriver countered to a tornado DDT on Bennett, as Matt misses the Five Star Frog Splash. CHASING THE DRAGON! reDRagon retain at 17:21
Rating – *** – I am really enjoying the work of Bennett and Taven as a team. Bennett in particular has been drifting around in Ring Of Honor for years trying to find something which really propels him to the next level as far as in-ring consistency is concerned…and this could be it. Along with Maria, their act and charisma as a duo was so noticeable they were even outshining the uber-entertaining Tag Champions at points here. I didn’t feel Kyle and Bobby were quite as effective as babyfaces at this juncture, and I felt the match got a little sloppy and disjointed during the closing stretch. That’s not to say this was bad, it’s just to explain why I couldn’t push my rating up to 4*. There was still much to enjoy about this one, and much to leave you feeling extremely positive about seeing more of the new Bennett/Taven double-act.
Will Ferrara vs Adam Page
Lets be truthful about this – we are just weeks away from a huge match for Adam Page at Final Battle. He needs a confidence-boosting victory against one of the few members of the roster with even less big-time experience than him. This is an intriguing battle between training approaches as Page is now growing in stature under the tutelage of BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs in The Decade, whilst Will is a student of the ROH Dojo and appears to be taking the more ‘traditional’ route to the top of the company. The Decade would love to prove that their methods of respect and homage to the Ring Of Honor stars that have gone before trumps Delirious’ curriculum at the wrestling school.
Whomever the gravel-voiced ring announcer is filling in for Bobby Cruise or Scarlett Bordeaux tonight – he just blew his shot at more bookings by totally ignoring Ferrara’s entrance (like the rest of the audience) leaving an annoyed-looking Kevin Kelly to do it instead. Page’s faux cocky veteran act is utterly fantastic and makes even pointless popcorn matches like this tolerable. He acts like a villain from the 80’s as he tries to use his ‘size’ to overpower Will in a series of Greco-Roman knucklelock variants. He then savagely boots Ferrara in the face when he dares to try to quicken the pace or work some flashy spots in. Next he tries to teach Will some ‘respect’ by hauling him to the floor and introducing him to the guardrails – BJ Whitmer in his ear and barking orders at all times. Whitmer also makes a real show of handing Page some water to indicate that he is now considered a ‘full member’ of The Decade. Back to the mat he goes, cranking the neck as he works a simple abdominal stretch. Will no sells everything to hit a few spots in his comeback, which is a real shame. His brutally mediocre tornado DDT gets 2…followed by an even worse looking lungblower. Having said that, one of Ferrara’s ragged ass moves has really connected since Page is now bleeding from the mouth. Roderick Strong comes down the aisle and attacks Whitmer from behind, before distracting Page. Ferrara capitalises and sneaks a thoroughly undeserved schoolboy victory at 07:36
Rating – * – Adam Page continues to be one of the most underrated figures on the Ring Of Honor roster, but as usual he is let down by utterly abject booking. The ROH Dojo has been open for a long time and still hasn’t produced anyone of any real note, and Ferrara seems to be the latest in the ever-growing list of bang-average talents ROH are trying to force-feed down our throats in an effort to make their school seem remotely credible (Davey Andrews, Pelle Primeau, Grizzly Redwood, Alex Payne, Bobby Dempsey, Andy Ridge, Rhett Titus etc). He is nowhere near good enough to be getting the amount of exposure he has done over the last few months…and watching him go over a genuine rising star like Page was painful to watch. I get that Page is about to catch a break with a big Final Battle pay-per-view match with Roddy. But he needs to look as credible as possible going into that. If Delirious seriously thinks booking Adam to lose to Will f*cking Ferrara (no matter what the circumstances) two weeks before the ppv is a good idea then he is an idiot. Ferrara gains nothing from this since nobody rates him highly anyway. All this accomplished was taking a steaming big dump all over another perfectly decent performance from a young kid with actual talent. I’m wondering how much longer Page will stick with this promotion. He’s been here for endless months and even when they do attempt to move him from the never-ending uselessness of ROH’s undercard they can’t do it right…
Strong and Page brawl after the bell. And by ‘brawl’, I mean Strong beats the sh*t out of Page just to hammer the youngsters credibility into the dirt a little bit more. Even with BJ Whitmer’s help Adam can’t fight him off. I’m really struggling to express how infuriating I’ve found this entire segment.
Jay Lethal vs RD Evans – ROH TV Title Match
Here it is, the big pay-off to the ‘New Streak’ angle which has been running for months and has gotten over against all the odds – largely off the back of RD’s own charisma, personality, charm and hard work. He’s the one who has worked tirelessly to get this thing over with countless Youtube videos and promos. In almost Ryder-esque fashion, he created something which caught on with the fans – to such an extent that ROH almost had to run with it. The momentum created by the ‘Streak Freaks’ has taken Evans all the way to a TV Title shot. Jay Lethal is the longest reigning champion in the company at this point, and believes his championship is now more prestigious than the World Title held by Jay Briscoe. What better way to undermine a champion who hasn’t been pinned in ROH for two years than to defeat a challenger who’s own undefeated ‘streak’ now extends to 173-0?!
Evans is super over, giving this a genuine and tangible big match aura. Even RD himself looks a little amazed at how far his gimmick has come as hundreds of people chant ‘Streak’ at him. Lethal isn’t taking this seriously at all and can’t contain his laughter as RD tries to wrestle with him in the early going. In the end he pokes the (Papa) bear once too often and is left in utter shock as Evans DIVES OFF THE APRON into a football tackle to the floor! Next he grabs the Book Of Truth to taunt the champ with. Shades of Lethal’s mentor Samoa Joe next as Evans casually walks out of the path of a flying crossbody….then a pescado after Truth Martini tries to get involved! Five minutes in and there are still plenty of people chanting ‘Streak’ over and over. The champ gets serious and causes several visible welts on the Barrister’s body after a particularly violent Irish whip into the railings. Kelly and Corino basically admit that Evans will be done in ROH once the streak ends – which is how it panned out. Sensibly Lethal is slowing things down – an ideal strategy when faced with an opponent buoyed by fervent support from a vocal crowd. You see how seriously Lethal is taking this match too now as he chokes Evans in the ropes before delivering a vertical dropkick from the floor which visibly injures the champion as he lands hard against the apron then floor. Out of nowhere RD connects with a Yakuza Kick though, leaving them both on the mat as the ‘Streak’ chants go up again. Evans’ strikes are pretty flimsy which rather damages his comeback but the crowd are right behind him anyway. He takes too long setting up the Alpha Flight though and winds up taking a superplex from Lethal for 2. Lethal Injection countered to SCORPION DEATHLOCK for 2! SCORPION DEATHLOCK! (Yes, I’m using Sting references since Evans admitted his inspiration for The Streak was WCW’s Goldberg). LETHAL TAPS! But referee Todd Sinclair missed it since Martini had dragged him out of the ring! HAIL TO THE KING! Veda Scott pulls Sinclair out now! Veda, Truth and Ramon all argue at ringside…so Todd ejects them all. Lethal Injection…COUNTERED TO THE FREAKING SPEAR! JACKHAMMER! LETHAL KICKS OUT! The crowd are nuts for this now. REPEATED Alpha Flight headbutts nailed…and still Jay won’t relinquish his championship. He tries one more flying headbutt COUNTERED TO A MID-AIR LETHAL INJECTION! RD KICKS OUT! Lethal is so sure he won that he makes a grab for his belt, and in the melee Todd Sinclair gets caught with a flailing boot by Evans. Moose runs in…and as Lethal cowers in the corner in fear the big ex-NFL player turns and sprints into a Spear on RD instead! Jay retains in the cheapest of fashions at 20:28. The Streak is over
Rating – **** – This was far from a perfect match. There were moments of sloppiness, obvious miscommunication and at times it did look a little amateurish. But, when two athletes create a match and tell a story which whips a ‘smart’ crowd into a frenzy such as this you can’t help but respect them. I hated the finish (nothing new for ROH under the SBG/Delirious regime) but I simply adored the rollercoaster of a battle the two competitors put on before it. They struck a perfect tone, with Lethal the ‘serious wrestler’ being forced to take the ‘comedy wrestler’ seriously. RD Evans, somehow presenting a character which is both comically overblown with confidence yet also humble and sincerely likeable, was a delight to watch. The Streak seemed to be very much his own creation; something he’d dreamt up to have some fun with and keep himself from slipping out of the ROH roster – and it had somehow gotten so unpredictably huge that ROH couldn’t help but run with it. Stuffy, corporate, Sinclair suit-owned Ring Of Honor being forced to present a scrawny, scraggly-bearded, fluffy uni-tard wearing Chikara wrestler in a marquee match one of their bigger live events of the year. You couldn’t write that in a script. ROH didn’t WANT this script at all. But they had to run with it such was the popularity of the angle. This match wasn’t technically all that good, but as a joyous expression of fan support in front of two hard working professionals I found it utterly engrossing. It was all too apparent that Delirious/SBG/ROH really didn’t give a monkeys about RD. They used his ‘Streak’ as a vehicle to get their new project over – i.e. Moose, the big ex-National Football League player they can put in newsreels on their networks to make the company seem like a big deal. The Streak dying to put Moose over was sad. RD getting quietly bumped off the roster after Final Battle was even more depressing. But until the last few seconds this was a timely reminder of just how much fun wrestling can really be…
‘Ramon’ hops into the ring and smiles broadly as he holds up a ‘173-1’ sign. He was in league with Moose all along…and he marches to the announce table to tell them his real name (Stokely Hathaway). Veda has tears in her eyes as she leaves the arena…leaving a devastated RD Evans alone in the ring. To sum up how much RD actually meant to Ring Of Honor, their editing team (which can’t be bothered to edit out half the stupid and incorrect sh*t Kevin Kelly says on a weekly basis) cut out the entirety of the documented lengthy standing ovation he got as he walked out.
Adam Cole vs Christopher Daniels
If this match delivers, it will be good enough to carry the rest of the show by itself. When Ring Of Honor started back in 2002, it had one established and defined main event level heel. Chris Daniels was a dastardly villain but also highly skilled inside the ring. Backed up by his crew (The Prophecy) he was perhaps the most dangerous man on the entire roster. Fast forward to 2014, the same could be said for Adam Cole. Although still young, Cole is now a world-travelled and highly-seasoned professional. He has held the World Championship, he has his own solid crew behind him (The Kingdom) and he is almost undeniably the top heel right now. One in his mid-20’s, one in his mid-40’s – this is a cross-generational battle if ever there was one. Cole is weeks away from challenging for the World Title at Final Battle. The old fox Daniels will know that a win here will instantly make him a top contender should Cole go on to defeat Jay Briscoe in New York.
The crowd haven’t lost any steam after the flat finish to Lethal/Evans and are still red hot as this one gets underway. The start is admittedly rather slow, but it is fascinating viewing watching Cole interact with such a consummate professional as the Fallen Angel. Cole’s emotions range from cocky to frantic, he tries to cheat, he tries to slow things down, he tries to quicken things up…and at every turn Daniels has an answer for him and a counter too. After five minutes Adam has no choice but to simply leave the ring for a rethink. He comes back and heels out even harder by ignoring San Antonio’s demands for a test of strength and opting to punt his opponent in the gut instead. He talks some smack too…and Daniels is freaking livid! He snaps, shoving the ref aside and totally battering the former World Champ in the corner…and when Cole tries to flee again this time Daniels jumps at him with a tope! Realising he has Cole on the rack Daniels presses home his advantage via multiple trips to the barricades. Cole retaliates by tossing him over the top rope then braining him against the ringpost. Ten minutes in and he starts targeting Daniels’ permanently-suspect neck. Most of it is low-impact stuff designed to rile up the crowd but he shows he is capable of dialling up the intensity when needed – by nailing the DVD over the knee when the Fallen Angel tries to mount a comeback. Eventually Daniels does manage to connect with a Blue Thunder Driver…but slumps to the deck in a heap nursing his neck. Florida Key blocked with a sliding lariat even though it’s noticeable everything Daniels does is a touch slower now. He can’t get up the ropes quick enough for a BME, misses a flying crossbody and crashes into the mat doing damage to both his neck and his left leg. Cole capitalises instantly with a Shining Wizard for 2. He superkicks the knee then jars the neck right afterwards with the cradlebreaker. The older man is rendered motionless and Adam pounces with the Figure 4 Leglock. Not enough damage had been done to the leg to force a submission there but it even further damages Daniels’ ability to move. He rattles off an Arabian press though, then the Fall From Grace – but after each he has to pause to recover before he can continue. Angel’s Wings countered to the Figure 4! Once again Daniels fights with all he’s worth…and survives the hold again. He can’t even get back to his feet now though much to the delight of the super-confident #1 contender. KOJI CLUTCH FROM NOWHERE! COLE HITS THE BAD LEG TO ESCAPE! He grabs it again as Daniels limps into a BME attempt…ANGEL’S WINGS! FOR 2! They go up the ropes with Daniels looking for an avalanche Angel’s Wings. Cole punches free into Panama Sunrise…which Daniels COUNTERS to a jack-knife pin for 2. SUPERKICK TO HIS NECK! JAY DRILLER! COLE WINS! 24:58 is your time, and a message has been sent!
Rating – **** – Ring Of Honor doesn’t do matches like this anywhere near enough now. Sure the opening was a little slow, but it wasn’t like they were stalling for no reason. There was obvious logic and story behind what they were doing – whether it be establishing Daniels as an all-knowledgeable veteran or positioning Cole as the brash asshole heel. Daniels is such an old pro at matches like this and could probably work them in his sleep. As it happens he was clearly extremely motivated for this, quite obviously his highest-profile singles match since his comeback. Given 25-minutes in the ring to put over the top heel in the company is right down his street and he made Cole look great with a hell of a sell-job on both the head and neck. I preferred this to Cole/AJ at All Star Extravaganza 6.
Jay Briscoe vs ACH – ROH World Title Match
It’s been an amazing couple of years for ACH. Dogged by the ongoing rumours of his lack of popularity backstage, and not without his own personal controversies (such as missing All Star Extravaganza two months ago)…whatever has been going on with him backstage hasn’t stopped him being an exceptionally reliable performer in high profile singles matches. Over two years he has consistently stolen shows with the likes of Michael Elgin, Davey Richards, Roderick Strong, Adam Cole, Jay Lethal and more. And over recent months his star has grown further – first by taking the dominant TV Champion Jay Lethal to a 30-minute time limit draw on television, then by pushing World Champion Jay Briscoe to the limit at the conclusion of the 2014 Champions vs All Stars match. Something in those performances has earned him this shot at the biggest prize in the company, with the added incentive of it taking place in his home state. Is he the man to end Briscoe’s two year undefeated streak, and can he hijack the Final Battle main event to guarantee his own spot at the top of the card on pay-per-view in Ring Of Honor’s biggest event of the year?
Briscoe quickly makes the point that he is much stronger than his challenger. He’s not quicker though and is made to look foolish as the challenger easily evades him whilst they run the ropes. ACH pie-faces the champ, then ducks and dives a few wild strikes before landing a dropkick. Briscoe’s next tactic is to try to bully the smaller man…but that doesn’t work either as ACH is more than happy to throwdown strikes with him on the canvas. As Corino correctly calls, Jay’s winning strategy is to slow things down and use his power to control proceedings. Thinking he’s being smart, Briscoe leaves the ring as ACH tries to quicken things again…but doesn’t bank on the challenger hopping straight to the apron so he can land the big football punt. Freebird Crossbody gets 2…but ACH’s vibrant start to the match soon ends as Jay starts to manhandle him again. We don’t get anything pretty from the champ but pretty soon he is in control – headbutting ACH with such force that even cuts his own forehead open. ACH is a fierce striker in his own right and he tries to prove that even though standing in the middle of the ring trading strikes with Briscoe isn’t the best idea. Things get REALLY stiff somewhere along the way, before ACH counters the Jay Driller into the tornado enzi kick. ACH ATTACKS THE BAD SHOULDER! Sh*t gets real as he jerks the bad arm over the top rope, then lunges off the turnbuckles into a flying double stomp on the shoulder for 2. Briscoe can’t lift him for his usual running DVD, dropping him in the ropes where he can propel himself after the shoulder again with a slingshot flatliner. Hero’s Grip blocked…into a RUNNING LARIAT! That looked brutal but such is the damage already done to Briscoe’s shoulder that he takes an eternity to follow up. He takes care to position ACH over his right (i.e. healthy) shoulder as he executes the Rude Awakening…only for ACH to counter another Jay Driller attempt with ANOTHER double stomp to the shoulder. Jay aggressively splats his face into the ring apron. DEATH VALLEY DRIVER ON THE ENTRANCE RAMP! This is seriously putting ACH over now – Briscoe is being incredibly aggressive with him, and has now retreated back to the ring so injured that he’s even happy to accept a count-out victory to keep the belt around his waist. The crowd rally behind their hometown challenger, giving him multiple high fives as he staggers back towards the ring in the latter half of the 20-count. ACH doesn’t have much left to defend himself with now though and gets peppered with strikes. From nowhere he lands a turnbuckle flatliner (Briscoe’s own move)…and jumps off the ropes into the 450 SPLASH! GETS 2! ROARING ELBOW to counter Air Jordan! MAFIA KICK! JAY DRILLER! Briscoe retains at 19:32
Rating – **** – This may well have been Jay Briscoe’s best World Title defence across two reigns with the belt. Both men were superb in conveying their character to the audience here. Jay wanted to bully and dominate ACH…whilst in his hometown the challenger did a hell of a job making it seem like he was doing everything possible to win the World Title. With every nearfall he’d clutch his head in disappointment. After every major spot he would literally sprint or dive into a cover in sheer desperation to win the match. This was perhaps the most obvious ‘champ retains’ title defence in the history of ROH, so for them to create this much drama is testament to how hard they both worked. ACH took some brutal bumps to make Jay look like a bad ass, and in turn Jay did a hell of a lot to get his opponent over too. Add in the fact that most of this was seriously stiff too. I wasn’t expecting miracles but this turned into an incredibly spirited and enjoyable World Title Match.
Adam Cole comes out to remind Briscoe that he has to defend the World Title against him at Final Battle. He challenges Jay to make their match a Fight Without Honor…before the rest of The Kingdom join him to beat Jay down. Mark Briscoe and Hanson (why?) make the save…and in the melee ACH sprints across the ring for a RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Michael Elgin sneaks into the ring to mouth off at the man that defeated him for the World Title, before he gets run off by an irate Tommaso Ciampa. Briscoe and Tommaso then start shoving each other, setting the scene for their title match before Final Battle when ROH teams up with PCW for Supershow Of Honor weekend. The show ends with half the roster brawling around ringside!
Tape Rating – *** – More positives than negatives, which at this stage in Ring Of Honor’s existence probably equates to an altogether decent show. It’s impossible to shy away from the fact that this company still has major problems when it comes to their creative direction…but at least this event was structured in such a way that the actual in-ring content did enough to make up for it. For once a show went more than three hours. For once EVERY major match actually got time to deliver something, and as such matches like Lethal/RD, Cole/Daniels and Briscoe/ACH were good enough to make up for having to sit through shocking performances from the likes of Romantic Touch and Will Ferrara, or desperately uninspired booking calls like sacrificing the New Streak for Moose. The last hour of this event was pretty much non-stop awesome, making this one of the easier recommends for ROH in 2014.
Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs RD Evans (****)
2) Adam Cole vs Christopher Daniels (****)
1) Jay Briscoe vs ACH (****)