ROH Summer Heat Tour: Cincinnati 7/18/2014

ROH 357 – Summer Heat Tour: Cincinnati – 18th July 2014

The Summer Heat Tour continues, a week removed from the rather shoddy and forgettable ‘Aftershock’ event. In my review for that show I said that the lack of depth and quality on ROH’s core roster was bitingly exposed, and I stand by that. Thankfully reinforcements have arrived for this show in the form of Rocky Romero, Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels. Daniels and Kaz (not yet acknowledged by their rather hokey ROH team name ‘The Addiction’) are scheduled to face The Kingdom in tag action. The main event sees former House Of Truth members collide as Michael Elgin defends his World Championship against Roderick Strong. In fact, all the Ring Of Honor titles are up for grabs tonight, with reDRagon defending the Tag Titles against the odd pairing of Tommaso Ciampa and Rocky Romero…and Jay Lethal defending the TV Title against Romantic Touch. The undercard is rounded out with some enticing matches like War Machine against the Briscoes and Kevin Steen’s penultimate ROH match (against Silas Young). Joe Dumbrowski and Steve Corino are a fresh pairing at the announce table in Cincinnati, OH.

Nigel McGuinness is introduced to the crowd by Scarlett Bordeaux. He’s there to run down the card and provide lip service to the local TV execs. Michael Bennett is ill so he is out of action and won’t be partnering Adam Cole against Bad Influence, and Alex Koslov is injured which is why Ciampa now partners Romero against reDRagon.

reDRagon vs Rocky Romero/Tommaso Ciampa – ROH Tag Title Match
As we just heard, Ciampa is a last minute replacement partner for Romero. Originally this was scheduled to be another reDRagon/Forever Hooligans Tag Title Match but Koslov is now on the shelf with an injured shoulder. Tommaso has been delivering the goods in the ring recently, but hasn’t backed it up with many high profile victories. Can he lead his team to victory tonight, and hand Rocky another Tag Title reign with a fourth different partner?

Fish tries to hide a screwdriver in his trunks, but apparently it’s all innocent – it’s just because he was changing the sparkplugs in Kyle’s mother’s minivan. The shenanigans lead to Bobby spearing Ciampa into the guardrails…only for Rocky to dropkick O’Reilly off the apron then wipe both champions out with a tope suicida. The challengers isolate Fish…until Kyle physically drags Rocky to the floor to put the boots to him. Bobby and Rocky exchange strikes, showcasing their MMA influences, with Fish coming out on top. Tommaso continually argues with the ref, giving reDRagon plenty of opportunities to double team Romero – though eventually the hot tag to the Sicilian Psychopath comes. O’Reilly clings to a guillotine choke to save his partner from the Bare Knee strikes, before Rocky intervenes with an enzi kick to his face! RUNNING DVD ON TOP OF FISH from Ciampa to Kyle! The challengers wind up arguing in classic Forever Hooligans style…except Ciampa isn’t going along with Rocky’s usual hug spot and instead shoves him out of the way to knee Fish in the face. Strike duel between O’Reilly and Romero. JUMPING KNEE by Rocky! Fish saves and lifts Romero into the tilta-whirl backbreaker/knee drop combo! Tommaso mows O’Reilly down as they line up Chasing The Dragon, as Romero SMALL PACKAGES FISH! That’s the finish they used when the Hooligans won the belts, but this time Bobby kicks at 2! Tornado DDT rolled into CHASING THE DRAGON on Ciampa! reDRagon retain the belts at 12:42

Rating – *** – One of my favourite opening matches all year. It combined plenty of hard-hitting action, and also plenty of comedy. reDRagon have blossomed into considerably entertaining performers during their lengthy run at the top of ROH’s tag division so it’s no surprise that they delivered the goods. But the odd couple relationship between Romero and Ciampa also provided several laughs, in particular the mimicking of the usual Forever Hooligans fake fight sequence…without Ciampa playing ball.

Tommaso Ciampa rants angrily at Romero, clearly frustrated after suffering another high profile loss. They have to be separated, with Ciampa stomping off still yelling abuse.

Jay Lethal vs Romantic Touch – ROH TV Title Match
RT earned this title shot by defeating Lethal in a Proving Ground Match during the Road To Best In The World weekend. Of course, it turned out to be Matt Taven under the mask looking to embarrass Jay – but nevertheless the actual Romantic Touch is the beneficiary and he challenges the centrepiece of the House Of Truth here tonight.

Steve Corino suggests he’ll be in TV Title contention after beating Kevin Steen at the Dearborn TV tapings. Touch enjoys getting physical with Lethal, prompting the champ to leave the ring and seek solace in teachings from the Book Of Truth. Lethal calls RT ‘Taven’, and is clearly well off his game as he propelled into the Snugglemonkey Flip for 2. Desperation Lethal Injection misses too and the unorthodox nature of his challenger means he is struggling to get out started. Truth Martini eventually comes to his client’s aid, setting Touch up for the tope suicida from the champion. Randy Savage double axehandle gets 2 with Lethal still screaming Taven’s name at his opponent. Touch blocks Hail To The King and springs up into the Titus dropkick. Atomic drop combo, into a belly to belly suplex. Austin Aries tumbling reverse elbow nailed for 2. Lethal Combination gets 2! Jay goes after the mask determined to prove that it is Matt Taven and succeeds in unlacing it…before RT leaves the ring and MAKES OUT WITH TRUTH MARTINI! Lethal Injection BLOCKED with the dropkick! ROMANTIC EDGE gets 2! Jay rips the mask off…and as Rhett tries to cover his face with a towel Lethal covers him for victory at 13:12

Rating – *** – This is a generous 3*, because I enjoyed this far more than any other Romantic Touch match in ROH thus far. I really liked the way they used his character to explore Jay Lethal’s range of emotions. He went from cocky, to extremely angry, to absolutely frantic, to borderline deranged at the end. In fact, Jay did such a good job selling the whacky antics of Romantic Touch that it really got the crowd into things, and went so far as to actually paint his whole feud with Matt Taven in a far better light. It went a little long, and got rather convoluted and weird at the end what with the guy on guy kissing and randomly exposing Rhett’s face – but I was entertained and having fun for the vast majority of this. That’s a huge improvement on most Romantic Touch matches…

Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer/Adam Page vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander/ACH
Initially Tadarius Thomas was supposed to be in this match, but much to everyone’s relief Jimmy has pulled him out after he tanked in the #1 contendership fourway last week at Aftershock. All three of Decade’s opponents have long-standing grudges with them, but interestingly this is actually the first time Caprice and Cedric have joined forces since they disbanded their full-time tag team in 2013.

Page got a lecture from Jacobs too, so with his ears ringing he violently assaults ACH as the bell rings. Coleman and Whitmer are in next with BJ falling foul of Caprice’s obvious speed edge. C&C start busting out some of their old double teams…until Adam comes to Whitmer’s aid with an SSP OFF THE APRON! Huge strike for the youngster which hands the initiative in the match to Decade for the first time. Stalling pumphandle suplex gets 2 for him as well. He also absolutely pummels Coleman after an assist from Thomas on the outside. Page has been the best part of this match by a mile so far. Eventually he eats the Mind Trip which allows a hot tag to ACH. CORKSCREW ENZI COMBO by Cedric and ACH for 2! SLINGSHOT SOMERSAULT LARIAT BY PAGE! Whitmer dumps Cedric on his neck with a powerslam…only to walk into a flying leg lariat from Coleman. Trinity combo on Page and Jacobs! Caprice then springboards from inside the ring to the floor with a moonsault! ELBOW SUICIDA BY JACOBS! Alexander chases him out with a somersault plancha! Then ADAM F*CKING PAGE nails ACH as he attempts Air Jordan! As ACH argues with Tadarius in the aftermath Whitmer and Jacobs scoop him up or the All Seeing Eye. Decade win at 11:35

Rating – *** – Another enjoyable Decade trios match, headlined by a spectacular breakout performance from Adam Page. Phenomenal character development from him here, just when it seemed like he was destined to tread water at the bottom of the card forever more. He was super aggressive from the opening bell, clearly determined to prove to Jacobs that he could take an opportunity, unlike TD. Everything good in this match came from Page – to the extent that everyone else was just there.

SIDENOTE – As I praise the character development of one worker, I’ll question the bewildering mis-use of another. Why is Cedric Alexander in this match? He already had his big cathartic victory over Roderick Strong at Best In The World. He shouldn’t be back in throwaway midcard 6-man tags against the same group all over again. What was the point in having a big break-out victory if he doesn’t climb the card at all and winds up right back where he started?

Silas Young vs Kevin Steen – No DQ Match
This is actually the last DVD-released match of Steen’s ROH run since his farewell match was part of the television tapings in Michigan. At War Of The Worlds he looked set to quit Ring Of Honor, until he was interrupted and insulted by Silas – looking to cash in and make a name for himself on Steen’s reputation before he leaves. At Best In The World Steen defeated Young, but didn’t get the handshake and show of respect that he wanted. Tonight he looks to beat some respect into him in his penultimate ROH match.

Steen, looking extremely slim now, starts by slapping Young in the face – prompting the veteran to flee the ring. His start is so dominant he finds time to steal an iPad from a front row fan and film himself kicking Silas in the face. The Last Real Man retorts by suplexing Kevin on the hard floor to buy himself some time. He wears Steen out with a chair…until Mr Wrestling DDT’s him onto it. CHAIR CANNONBALL NAILED! Steen-ton gets knees (as it has done for 90% of his ROH career), with Silas popping up to land the Killer Combo for 2. Trash can to the head…only for Steen to THROW it in Young’s face! POWERBOMB THROUGH THE TRASH CAN gets 2! Steen leaves the ring and gets a huge pop when he returns with a ladder. HIPTOSS THROUGH THE LADDER BY SILAS! He then hits a trash can lid-enforced Emerald Dream for 2. Sliding chair shot nailed too but still Kevin won’t stay down. F-5 ON THE LADDER! GETS 2! The crowd wants tables, so Steen grabs a microphone to tell them that there aren’t any under the ring. There are plenty of chairs though! He opens four up to make a chair platform…then opens up TWO MORE on top of them! The two men battle on the ropes in front of the stack…SILAS PRESS SLAMS STEEN THROUGH IT! PLUNGE ONTO MORE CHAIRS! SILAS WINS! It’s over at 16:21

Rating – **** – The match was only 3*, but the finish, and the correct booking decision to put Silas over drew an extra star from me. I was dreading Steen’s farewell shows becoming like Samoa Joe’s, where he basically went over every up and comer the company had on the way out. Thankfully Young, who has been as entertaining as anyone in 2014, gets a deserved victory and now needs to be kept in a prominent position on the card as there are few more over heels than him. Credit to Steen for doing the job, and for taking some crazy bumps that he really didn’t need to considering his pending relocation to Florida. Far better than Best In The World.

Ethan Gabriel Owens vs RD Evans vs Moose vs Matt Taven
It was announced at Best In The World that Moose was now under an ROH contract. This is his first live show main card booking so he’ll be looking to impress. His opponents are a tough crowd though. Owens has impressed people on recent shows, RD Evans’ ‘New Streak’ now stands at 134-0, whilst Taven is preparing for a TV Title showdown with Jay Lethal in the very near future. All four guys need the win here it seems.

RD lists former NFL stars he’s beaten as part of the New Streak. He then tries to spear Moose…who simply stands there as he bounces off him. Taven and EGO smirk and leave the ring so those two can start. Evans nearly taps out to a handshake, then Taven is sent flying through the air with a standing fallaway slam. Double suplex to Owens and Evans from the big man. In the end a tope suicida/pescado combo from those two finally takes Moose off his feet…and it’s Taven that capitalises with a running suicide dive. Veda Scott pops up on commentary to confirm that the New Streak will not be lost tonight if Evans isn’t involved in the pin (i.e. if Moose pins Taven). Four-way sleeper hold spot next, of course with Moose as the guy free of any arms around his own neck. Owens scoops RD onto his shoulders as Moose climbs the ropes for a doomsday football tackle. Flapjack from Moose to Matt gets 2. Rolling neckbreaker from Taven to Owens…only for RD to capitalise with a diving headbutt on EGO for 2. Five Star Frog Splash by Taven! He has the match won…the Streak is over! But Truth Martini breaks the fall! Taven sprints to the locker room chasing Truth…as Moose mows down Ethan with a spear. Evans steals the pin! The Streak continues! 10:38 is your time

Rating – * – Too long, and far too much Moose for my liking. He has so little personality it’s embarrassing, which was frightfully exposed when in the ring with perhaps the most over guy on the whole roster in RD Evans. I liked the finish, I liked the further development in the Taven/Lethal/Truth feud, but you could have halved the duration of this match and lost nothing of any importance.

The ICONIC Champion Maria Kanellis crashes the show to lead a prayer for Matt Hardy. She also announces that she’s struck a deal with another managerial great, and it will now be Truth Martini’s client Jay Lethal teaming up with hers (Adam Cole) in a tag match later. The Briscoes interrupt since the ICONIC belt is vulnerable…but Maria bails.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs War Machine
The Briscoes take a break from their feud with The Kingdom to test the skills of one of ROH’s hottest up and coming tag teams. Hanson and Rowe have impressed thus far, but a match against the most decorated tag team in Ring Of Honor history is comfortably their sternest test. These two teams crossed paths at Aftershock last week when the Briscoes ran in on a trios tag featuring War Machine.

The amount of facial hair in this one boggles the mind. Hanson starts with Jay and wastes no time in pasting the former World Champion with an assortment of shots. Mark peppers Rowe with his rather quirky strikes too…only to be mowed into the ground by his powerful opponent. War Machine’s sheer power is too much for Mark, so the Briscoes use some double teams and rapid-fire tags to gain an edge on Hanson. But still the rugged violence of Hanson and Rowe is too much to keep down and Raymond tags back in with a Cement Mixer spinebuster for 2. The inexperienced duo start isolating Jay and some of the strikes they dish out are absolutely horrifying. Hot tag to Mark who busts out the Redneck Kung Fu – knocking Rowe back for a Rude Awakening/Froggy Bow combo! Hanson saves his partner from the Doomsday Device…then powerbombs him down onto Mark’s prone torso. It breaks down into a brawl, as Mark hits a TOP ROPE moonsault to the floor! Cartwheel lariat from Hanson to Jay. Adam Cole and Jay Lethal run in dishing out shots to all four men – forcing a no contest at 11:09

Rating – ** – I enjoyed this, but the lack of a finish makes it hard to go higher on a rating. I understand the non-finish to a degree since ROH are trying to build War Machine up as an undefeated tag team, but I really didn’t like Lethal being in there. Obviously he’s a paid associate of The Kingdom for the evening, but he has no reason to get involved with any of these four. Why not have Cole take them all out with a chair or something? I will say that the Briscoes and War Machine had great chemistry together. Jay and Mark haven’t really faced a team like Hanson and Rowe in their twelve year tenure in this company, so it felt extremely fresh. A rivalry or series of matches between them could really make War Machine a name…

Daniels and Kazarian run in to make a save – leading straight into our next match

Adam Cole/Jay Lethal vs Christopher Daniels/Frankie Kazarian
There’s not a lot of back story to this one. Originally Daniels and Kazarian, making only their second appearance since returning to the company, were scheduled to face The Kingdom’s Adam Cole and Michael Bennett in a first time ever match. Bennett’s illness has taken that off the table, but the addition of Jay Lethal (and Truth Martini) into the mix is an interesting one – given that Daniels is a former member of the House Of Truth.

Bad Influence don’t wait for the officials to get things started and waste no time in unloading a volley of double teams on Lethal – as Cole snakes out of the ring. Adam does eventually start as the legal man and is every bit as unsuccessful as his partner. In fact, the veterans boss the opening minutes regardless of who is in the ring with them, and the inexperience of their opposition as a team really starts to show. Truth Martini eventually comes to their aid – tripping his former client Chris Daniels and causing him to eat a jumping enzi from the former World Champion. Lethal, Daniels and Martini then triple team the Fallen Angel on the outside to really turn the match in their favour. The heels isolate Daniels, working on his neck – which has been a cause of soreness and injury issues throughout his career. STO ON THE FLOOR from Daniels to Cole! Jay defies the fatigue of competing in his second match of the night to leap across the ring and thwart a tag to Kaz though. This match would be way more interesting if the heels had more varied ways to attack the neck than working multiple lengthy chinlock/rest hold spots. The tag to Frankie finally comes and he flattens both opponents with a foldover/bridging exploder suplex! SUPERKICK/LETHAL COMBINATION gets 2 for the heels! Kazarian retorts by dropping Cole on his neck with a clothesline! Daniels gets 2 with an Asai moonsault…as the Briscoes storm back to ringside chasing Maria, Martini and the ICONIC Championship! Cole is back dropped into the laps of the commentators…as his partner eats the BME! Daniels and Kaz win at 13:46

Rating – *** – A really solid formula tag match, which probably needed a few more minutes and a few more exciting spots to lift the rating into 4* territory. Given their inexperience as a duo Cole and Lethal gelled quickly as a team – and that superkick/Lethal Combo spot was absolutely awesome. Unfortunately their heat segment on Daniels was SO safe and lifeless it actually started killing the match. Thankfully it didn’t last too long and the final few minutes with all four guys hitting big spots were really good. Daniels and Kazarian are so smooth, slick and polished in their performance. I’m looking forward to them really getting to cut loose in ROH at some point.

The Briscoes and War Machine reappear, all marching into the ring with the triumphant Daniels and Kazarian. Everyone stares off to make the point that the Ring Of Honor tag division is hot right now.

Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong – ROH World Title Match
One of the first men Elgin agreed to defend the belt against was his old stable-mate in the House Of Truth – Roderick Strong. When they were together under Martini’s guidance Strong was the World Champion and very much the senior partner. Elgin was the enforcer, and understudy – but as his reputation grew he became tired of that role. Despite Roddy going on to become only the second ever Triple Crown Champion in ROH history Elgin demanded more attention himself – and their time in the House Of Truth spectacularly came to an end in late 2012. Roddy hasn’t been wildly successful in 2014, but is still a prominent part of the company and is still considered a top contender to the World Title at any given time. Tonight he wants to return to the top of the Ring Of Honor mountain, whilst Unbreakable wants to prove that he was the better of the two former House Of Truth stalwarts.

Elgin looks determined to make his mark at the expense of his former partner – and easily muscles him into the corner to lay down a marker. He then shunts Strong off his feet as he tries shoulder blocks, and sends him crashing into the buckles with some violent Irish whips. Roderick as to use his speed to his advantage, slipping out the back door on a stalling suplex then tripping the champ into the ropes. Unfortunately he tries to run once too often and gets LEVELLED with the ST-Joe. MOONSAULT by Elgin gets 2! He climbs for a second moonsault though, allowing Strong time to recover – which he uses to SHOVE ELGIN TO THE FLOOR! BACK SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR! Roddy is focused on the spine and ribs now, clambering onto the bigger man’s back for a modified camel clutch. After several minutes of non-stop abuse Elgin plucks a counter out of mid-air and catches Roddy in a powerslam. He peppers Strong’s face with strikes – then starts splattering it against the turnbuckles and canvas too. Is his plan to knock his former partner out before his back gives out on him? A snap German suplex drops him on his head soon afterwards as well. Spiral Bomb blocked into a back body drop…then the OLYMPIC SLAM! Elgin fires back with repeated clubbing lariats, again rattling the skull of his opponent. Roddy knees him in the stomach, but is scooped up into a Michinoku Driver for 2. Such is the extent of Elgin’s injuries that he can’t execute the dead-lift superplex as Strong slips away looking for a sunset flip bomb. The battle on the ropes continues, the two men drenched in sweat and flailing away on each other…before Strong snatches initiative with a turnbuckle backbreaker! GIBSON DRIVER! STRONGHOLD! Elgin escapes with more shots to the head…DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK! GETS 2! Both men are spent now, as the weary Roderick tries to hoist the champion up for End Of Heartache. It’s blocked, but then so is the Elgin Bomb. LARIATOOOOOO! Both men down! APRON BACKBREAKER BY STRONG! GIBSON DRIVER! He then drags Elgin out of the ring. GIBSON DRIVER ON THE FLOOR! STILL Elgin kicks out! He is desperate now and just wants to escape the match – nearly trapping Roderick in a small package. Crossface blocked – BACK FIST INSTEAD! BUCKLE BOMB! ELGIN BOMB! STRONG KICKS OUT! CROSSFACE! KNEE STRIKES TO THE HEAD! CROSSFACE AGAIN! Strong is KO’d, and Elgin retains at 26:01

Rating – ****1/2 – One of my favourite matches of 2014 in Ring Of Honor. I’ve read that this was an underwhelming match that disappointed a lot of people, but personally I loved it. There wasn’t a single wasted motion throughout the whole contest. Literally everything from the opening seconds to the final bell MEANT something. It told an outstanding story, and never let up for almost half an hour despite a pretty sh*tty crowd. Elgin started the match looking confident, and determined to cement his legacy as champion at the expense of the man he was forced to play second fiddle to in the past. Strong, the veteran, realised how powerful his opponent was and instead went to his speed and ‘gear changing’ ability. It created an opening – which he used for his go-to strategy of working the back. That forced Elgin to react too. He stopped trying to overpower Strong and instead started trying to knock him out. Every move he hit was either a shot to the head, a shot to the face, or something which dropped Strong right on his head. The action escalated, both men got believable nearfalls – and the story they told went all the way through to the finish when Elgin won by knock-out. This is seriously one of the best ROH matches this year, and is being criminally under-rated by many.

Tape Rating – *** – A much better show than Aftershock. Admittedly the second half had a couple of disappointing matches, but for the most part this had consistent action from top to bottom and a couple of outstanding contests worth going out of your way to see. Hell, even the commentary was more tolerable with Dumbrowski and Corino’s banter infinitely preferable to the goofy, childish and corny crap coming from Kevin Kelly and Larry Mercer on the previous release. Steen’s penultimate ROH match against Silas was predictably hard-hitting. It wasn’t perhaps the career-defining, ultra-violent war many would have hoped for – but Silas’ victory is definitely a milestone in his Ring Of Honor tenure and one you hope Delirious and SBG can follow up on with a consistent push. He really deserves the chance to crack the main event scene. And speaking of main events – this DVD has a cracking one. It hasn’t received the best press, but for me Strong/Elgin was a superb match combining hard-hitting, rugged and realistic wrestling with a well-executed and believable story. After a disappointing weekend in Hopkins for both ROH and it’s World Champion – this stop in Cincinnati was a strong rebound.

Top 3 Matches
3) reDRagon vs Rocky Romero/Tommaso Ciampa (***)
2) Silas Young vs Kevin Steen (****)
1) Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong (****1/2)

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