ROH 350 – Supercard Of Honor 8 – 4th April 2014
Here we go with Ring Of Honor’s contribution to the annual carnival of wrestling that is WrestleMania weekend. Much like last year they only have one full live show, with their second offering being a TV taping, so this is their big shot to impress new fans, wow the wrestling press, and amaze their hardcore fans who have opted for their event rather than the multiple competing options they could have gone for. The card is a strong one from top to bottom, and is headed up by Ladder War 5 – pitting Adam Cole against Jay Briscoe with the World Championship at stake. Kevin Steen and Michael Elgin collide with IWGP Heavyweight Title #1 contendership at stake, Jay Lethal gets his rematch for Tommaso Ciampa’s Television Title, Mark Briscoe and Michael Bennett meet in a No DQ Match, and we also have the long-awaited showdown between Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino are in position in New Orleans, LA.
Cedric Alexander vs Roderick Strong
This is a grudge match we’ve been waiting months to see. It was back in January that Cedric raised the ire of The Decade when he defeated Andrew Everett with the Lumbar Check – a backbreaker finish – right in front of Roderick Strong. Roddy accused him of move-stealing, and ejected him from the locker room at the next live event in Texas. Alexander has continued to be bullied by The Decade ever since, but has refused to back down – and taken great pleasure in repeatedly delivering the Lumbar Check to opponents right in front of Roddy. Will the 10+ year veteran of this promotion win out, or will the up-and-comer score a popular victory over his tormentor?
All of The Decade (including Adam Page) are at ringside with Roddy. Alexander doesn’t back down from a fight though, holding his own with Strong in the early exchanges then happily getting in his face even whilst all his team-mates hop up onto the apron looking to intimidate him. Blood is flowing with Strong having seemingly suffered a cut hand…which doesn’t stop him sweeping Ced out of the corner and catching his head on the top turnbuckles. Young boy Adam Page actually has to leave ringside to retrieve some medical supplies for Roderick’s hand. He tapes it up and without missing a beat darts back towards his opponent and pummels him into the canvas. Grounded bearhug applied but Cedric makes the ropes and lands a slingshot DDT for 2! FULL NELSON FACEPLANT nailed as well! It’s over-enthusiasm which costs Alexander at that juncture though, getting caught running in with a knee to the stomach – doubling him over and allowing Strong to take him down with the Olympic Slam. Urinage backbreaker countered to a crucifix pin…only for Roddy to scoop him up seconds later and hit a capture backbreaker! JUMPING KNEE counters Cedric’s rebound enzi kick, and it’s followed with the Death By Roderick for 2! End Of Heartache countered with an enzi…then the Impact Explosion Dropkick. KICK 2 KILL! Decade members start appearing on the apron trying to get involved, so Alexander takes them all out with a somersault plancha! Springboard lariat countered with a dropkick – into END OF HEARTACHE! Strong wins at 10:25
Rating – *** – A hot opening match, although I’m disappointed to see arguably the hottest feud coming into this show reduced to a spotty ten-minute curtain jerker. These two are great and had no problems storming through a procession of their high-octane moves in front of a supportive live crowd – but this could have been something far more had they been given the chance and the time limit. Thankfully this won’t be the only match between them, so hopefully they’ll get more of an opportunity to shine on a card which isn’t so stacked.
Jimmy Jacobs and the rest of Decade pile into the ring, gloating at Cedric’s fate then ordering him away so they can wrestle their match next
Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer/Adam Page vs Adrenaline RUSH/Andrew Everett
This is a major opportunity for Everett, who impressed as part of the 2014 Top Prospect Tournament and had a great showing at Wrestling’s Finest – but hasn’t been booked in the three months since. As ever in ROH, the pressure is on him to deliver the goods and nail down a roster spot. He teams with a finalist from the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament in Tadarius Thomas, and another popular rising star in ACH. They are three talented, popular and innovative workers. Unfortunately for them, that makes them targets for a veteran group looking to make examples of flashy newcomers to the locker room – in order to make them earn their place in Ring Of Honor.
This is under lucha tag rules, so tags aren’t necessary. ACH is getting increasingly fed up at Decade refusing to shake his hand every time he fights them…so leaves the ring to get handshakes from as many front row fans as possible. He also demands to start with the vocal mouthpiece of Decade in Jimmy Jacobs – who shows him yet more disrespect by giving him Page. They go through a near-miss exchange, culminating in duelling drop-saults. Whitmer doesn’t want to sell ACH’s moves, and as he distracts the fiery youngster Jacobs tries to attack him from behind. Sensibly ACH rolls out of the ring allowing Thomas to replace him and hit a Slingblade. Everett is MILES too fast for Jacobs – hitting headcissors and rana’s with such rapidity that Jimmy hasn’t finished selling one before being dragged into the next. TD lands the Bermuda Triangle to the floor, as Whitmer scoops ACH onto his shoulders. DOOMSDAY TOPE SUICIDA by BJ and Jimmy! Once again Decade have ACH in the ring, and this time they are able to keep inside the ropes to really rough him up. AIR JORDAN OUT OF NOWHERE takes out Whitmer! It means Tadarius can make his way in legally again – planting Jacobs on his head with a half nelson suplex! Torture rack backbreaker from Page to TD! Everett botches an attempted dive off the ropes, much to the delight of the crowd…but it doesn’t stop him hitting a moonsault press seconds later. SPRINGBOARD SHOOTING STAR TO THE FLOOR! SPRINGBOARD SHOOTING STAR BACK INSIDE on BJ for 2! WHITMER BACK BODY DROPS HIM OVER THE BUCKLES! All Seeing Eye finishes off Thomas at 10:13
Rating – *** – Another fun-filled, spot-packed Decade tag. Everett added a new, far more athletic element to these matches, whilst ACH got significantly more ring-time and chance to shine than he normally does (both of which helped). I have to be honest and say I’m a little fed up of seeing Decade vs Adrenaline RUSH in various forms. These spotty tag matches don’t suit Tadarius particularly well, and he is consistently becoming the weak-link in the group. What I find odd is that ROH spent most of 2013 ignoring C&C WrestleFactory, despite Cedric’s obvious burgeoning talent, and pushed ACH incredibly hard. He delivered the goods in a series of superb singles matches over the course of the year – yet in 2014 C&C were the team they chose to split up, Cedric was the guy they chose to give a singles push to, and ACH seems to be treading water (and even going backwards) in the midcard.
Jimmy Jacobs brings out his railroad spike whilst his two team-mates circle the ring making sure ACH and Everett can’t get in. Thomas slumps to his knees, apparently accepting his grim fate…but Jimmy opts to put the spike away and leave. He was simply sending a message to ACH after he disrespected him in the opening portion of the match.
Truth Martini is backstage (a backstage segment on an ROH show is rare these days), calling Matt Taven ignorant and promising that he will unveil the newest member of the House Of Truth tonight in New Orleans.
He then makes his way into the arena, because it’s time for him to reveal his ‘surprise opponent’ for Taven. He allows Matt to take the Book Of Truth. It glows like ET’s finger…then Truth gives him a kick in the balls and leaves. Cue a collective ‘what the f’ reaction from pretty much everyone. That’s the whole segment…
Silas Young vs RD Evans
At Flyin’ High we saw Evans significantly increase his ‘New Streak’ with two major victories in one evening. The first of which was a four corner survival, also featuring Silas. The Last Real Man voiced displeasure at the Barrister’s unique ring gear and ‘Streak’ shenanigans, and now looks to be the one to end it in arguably the biggest match of the ‘New Streak’ (82-0) thus far.
There are plenty of newbs in the crowd it seems, as most of them are chanting ‘Yes’ rather than ‘Streak’ – but the support for RD’s current gimmick is undeniable. Young tries to silence the crowd with a strong start – but finds himself getting tripped up by Veda Scott on the outside. Ramone the sign guy also tries to take a pop at the Last Real Man…and looks set to get an ass kicking until Evans dives at him from the apron with an elbow smash. Silas has a size advantage, and starts to use it after growing frustrated at being the butt of RD’s jokes. Apparently Evans got on the wrong flight on his way to New Orleans – but used it as an opportunity to win the 82nd match in the Streak whilst he was waiting for his flight back for the show tonight. Perhaps that tired him out because Young is giving him a real beating now, putting the Streak in jeopardy. He hits a shoulder tackle from the top rope and elbow drops Silas’ face into the turnbuckles before landing the northern lights bomb for 2. Young lands the backbreaker/lariat (Killer Combo), only to be heckled with ‘you can’t beat him’ chants by NOLA. ELECTRIC CHAIR DROP ON THE APRON! RD falls to the floor facing the very real possibility of the Streak ending by count-out…until a last gasp dive brings him back into the ring. Silas wants the Pee Gee Waja Plunge, only to be distracted by Veda Scott. Ramone tosses his belt into the ring…and when Silas grabs it Evans falls to the ground pretending to be hit and trying to con the ref into giving him a DQ. No dice there, but the Barrister nearly wins anyway with a SUPER HOT roll-up. SILAS INADVERTENTLY NAILS THE REF WITH THE BELT! Evans hits a sleeper slam, and has him down for a count of 5+…but with no ref he’s vulnerable and he gets the Pee Gee Waja Plunge. Young wins at 10:56 – the Streak is over! But Paul Turner has revived himself, and reverses the decision to award RD the match by DQ thanks to that belt shot. 83-0! The crowd goes wild!
Rating – *** – This was too long for a comedy ‘Streak’ match, but, that said, it was also the best ‘Streak’ match since RD/Elgin on television. The gimmick is perhaps the most over thing in ROH, and has the kind of organic natural fan support that you just can’t predict or plan for (like Austin’s ‘What’, Bryan’s ‘Yes’, the Jimmy Rave toilet paper gimmick etc). In terms of in-ring wrestling this may well end up being the worst match of the night – but I doubt any match tonight will get more of a response from the crowd. Normally overbooked finishes are a little silly, but this one was a brilliant tease. The anger coming from the stands for the brief time they thought the Streak had been ended was palpable.
Michael Bennett talks about all the things he can do to Mark Briscoe in a No DQ Match. Despite all the weapons he could use, he promises it will be the Go Back To Japan which puts Mark away.
Mark Briscoe also gets promo time. He basically looks like Necro Butcher now. This promo is crap by the way. Mark needs to be careful to keep his crazy redneck gimmick the right side of silly.
Mark Briscoe vs Michael Bennett – No DQ Match
Whilst Adam Cole and Jay Briscoe do battle in the main event, here we have their respective tag team partners also going to war. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen the Briscoes face the ‘Power duo’ of Cole and Bennett on two occasions – each time ending with Jay pinning Cole. In each of those matches though, Bennett has seemingly had the upper hand and been able to put Mark through a table. Briscoe is coming for revenge, whilst Michael has his sights set on winning a huge match on one of ROH’s biggest weekends of the year using a move made famous by his fiancé’s ex-boyfriend.
Bennett appears to want Maria to go back to the locker room…and as they argue Mark dives at him with a BLOCKBUSTER TO THE FLOOR! Bennett’s response is to back drop Briscoe over the turnbuckles to the floor. The brawl spills up into the bleachers, with Briscoe hitting a SPRINGBOARD DIVE OFF THE RAILS! Sadly Briscoe spends too much time posing to the crowd…and gets steel chairs tossed in his face. The chairs are further brought into play next as Michael places one over his opponent’s crotch, then swings at it with a second chair. Despite his ‘ding ding’ pain, Briscoe manages to knock Bennett out of the ring for a Cactus Elbow. BENNETT SPEARS MARK OFF THE STAGE THROUGH A TABLE! By the time they make it back to the ring Mark appears to have regained the ascendancy…and steams into Bennett with a Singapore cane. Maria steals it from Briscoe…and socks him in the back so Bennett can give him a BOX OFFICE SMASH ON A CHAIR! SOLO CON-CHAIR-TO! Go Back To Japan applied…and the ref stops it at 09:57
Rating – *** – I wasn’t expecting much from this, so it was a genuinely pleasant surprise. They were given license to do some wild stuff, they reigned in lots of Mark’s goofy comedy spots which he has a tendency to over-use – and they actually put Bennett over, which isn’t always popular but needed to happen if he is to seem like a viable player and valuable asset to Adam Cole’s stable. Mark is over regardless, so really didn’t need the win here anyway. It also had a great finish, allowing Bennett to use all his finishers, but using Maria’s minor interference to give Briscoe an ‘out’.
INTERMISSION – Matt Taven stomps around backstage trying to find Truth Martini…eventually storming into the men’s room with the door closing behind him. We hear anguished screams from Taven, and Truth comes out chuckling and gloating. The implication is that he threw some kind of fireball into Matt’s face. In the past, when ROH would treat wrestling fans like grown ups, we’d actually get to see said fireball. Now, since wrestling fans need to be treated like children who can’t separate reality from fiction, apparently we can’t see it.
Back from intermission, with Nigel McGuinness replacing Steve Corino on commentary, and Cheeseburger in the ring throwing out free t-shirts. Matt Hardy turns up, making his first appearance since January. He thinks his presence has pushed ROH’s numbers through the roof in 2014 (despite the fact he’s barely been booked), and gloats that Ring Of Honor are spending $15k to book him (which I seriously hope is a joke and not his actual salary – in which case that is f*cking shocking). The promo winds on and on…not really making any further point other than Hardy and Cole succeeding despite the ‘bullying’ of the Ring Of Honor fans. A Twist Of Fate to Cheeseburger later…and away he goes
SIDENOTE – This was a pathetic waste of time. In an era when ROH won’t let their shows go long, they were willing to give Matt Hardy five minutes of precious air time to talk absolute crap? It would have been far more effective if Matt had just shown up in the main event, and something like Strong vs Alexander would really have benefited from the extra in-ring time. I could seriously rant for hours about how much I despise Matt Hardy in ROH
Forever Hooligans vs War Machine vs reDRagon
This is a #1 contendership match for the Tag Titles – with the winners getting a shot at the Young Bucks at War Of The Worlds in New York. Hanson & Rowe are the outsiders for this, but have impressed people with their performances thus far in 2014 and compete with the endorsement of Michael Elgin. Meanwhile reDRagon and the Hooligans have previous, with Koslov and Romero actually beating Kyle and Bobby for their Tag Titles last summer.
O’Reilly starts with Rowe, repeatedly getting put on his ass despite the reassurances of his vocal partner, Bobby Fish, on the apron. If that wasn’t enough, Hanson drags him out of the ring for a body slam on the floor. Fish tags…straight into a belly to belly suplex from Rowe! Knee strike/northern lariat combo gets 2! reDRagon decide they’ve had enough of getting beaten up by War Machine – so Fish forcibly tags Romero in. A wily veteran, Rocky comes in and simply pokes Hanson in the eyes; blinding him so he can’t defend himself against a barrage of offence from both Hooligans. Rocky hits a diving knee to the floor on Fish next, as in the ring Koslov pulls out the furry hat for the Cossack Kicks to O’Reilly. As usual the Hooligans pretend to get into a fight – although the crowd have seen enough of them by this point to know it’s just going to be a hug. ONE ARM SPINEBUSTER from Rowe to Romero! reDRagon sneak in to capitalise on the damage done there – hitting Rocky with the tilta-whirl backbreaker/knee drop combo. Koslov in, and he manages to clear the ring of every other opponent. AIR JORDAN BY KOSLOV! He ploughs into Kyle with a springboard dropkick as well…before taking a nasty spill out of the ring at the hands of Fish. Axe & Smash from O’Reilly to Rowe…before Hanson stomps in and mows him down with a lariat. FLYING KNEE STRIKE OFF THE APRON from O’Reilly to Rowe! Koslov climbs the ropes for a shooting star press! O’Reilly grabs Koslov’s tights and rolls him up – scoring the win at 13:47
Rating – *** – Another decent spotfest on the show, although by this point I feel more than ready for something more substantial. I thought War Machine did particularly well here, and didn’t look out of place against two teams with significantly more experience. The Hooligans, in particular, have been working matches like this for a number of years (both as partners and opponents), so for Hanson and Rowe to hang with them is a ringing endorsement for their future capabilities as a team. After having them at the centre of Ring Of Honor’s tag division for much of the last 18 months I was actually pulling to keep reDRagon away from the Tag Titles for a few months, but given the Jacksons’ status as a part time team, I do understand why reDRagon/Bucks 2 needed to be booked as soon as possible.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Jay Lethal – ROH TV Title 2/3 Falls Match
The last time these two individuals met in a 2/3 Falls Match, Ciampa suffered a career-threatening knee injury in the first few seconds…and still fought bravely through the entire match before eventually succumbing to defeat. It capped a miserable few months for Tommaso when facing Lethal – having failed to take the TV Title from him on multiple occasions, and eventually lost his undefeated streak to him as well. This year though, the tables have turned somewhat. Ciampa won the TV Title from Matt Taven at Final Battle – and despite honourably wanting to defend the belt against Jay, it is the presence of Taven and Truth Martini that has wound up costing Lethal the belt. He has had Ciampa pinned on two occasions (both in a triple threat and a one-on-one title shot) with the referee missing the fall on both occasions thanks to skirmishes involving the aforementioned former House Of Truth members. Pushed to breaking point, Jay has promised we’ll see the extent of his desire to regain his Television Championship here tonight.
Ciampa has his full ‘heart monitor’ entrance, and has bleached his beard again so he looks eerily similar to Boiling Point 2012. He also makes a point of ceremonially removing his knee brace and handing it to Jay. The pace is slow to start as both men are so keenly aware of the threat their opponent poses. Early points go to Ciampa, who rolls aside to avoid the hiptoss/dropkick combo. Lethal doesn’t like that at all and slaps him in the face. Springboard dropkick to the apron misses though…but in turn Jay blocks Tommaso’s guardrail wheelbarrow spot and launches into the ROLLING TOPES! The third one knocks the Sicilian into the front row such was the force of impact. He’s in the crowd again moments later, this time after delivering a crazy RUNNING KNEE STRIKE TO THE RAILS! It softens Lethal up enough for Ciampa to land a succession of strikes…without ever doing enough damage to keep the challenger down. Jay inevitably explodes back into the match – by hitting the cartwheel dropkick combo. A lungblower (of sorts) blocks a Lethal Injection…and despite hitting the move Tommaso stays down clutching his knee in the aftermath. He tries a suplex but the knees give way…and they both fall out of the ring to the floor. They lay into each other with strikes on the outside, hitting with such gusto that they are almost simultaneously counted out. Lethal Injection attempted again…countered by Tommaso…but this time Jay rolls through into a bridging pin, taking the first fall at 10:19. Ciampa doesn’t like that and kicks Lethal IN THE FACE! Project Ciampa blocked – KNEE STRIKE gets 2! Lethal Combination leads to the Koji Clutch, but much as with their TV match Tommaso turns it into the Sicilian Stretch! Jay goes for the Lethal Injection but it’s COUNTERED TO AN ACE CRUSHER! Wicked counter from Tommaso but it’s still only good enough for a 2-count. He takes Lethal to the top for the avalanche Air Raid Crash – but Jay walks out of the corner into PROJECT LETHAL! Having stolen Ciampa’s own finisher Jay is clearly too confident and takes an age climbing the ropes for Hail To The King. Handspring elbow inadvertently wipes out Todd Sinclair as in the ring Ciampa hits ROLLING GERMANS! DISCUS LARIAT! Truth Martini runs in and tosses Tommaso’s knee brace to Lethal…who NAILS Ciampa with it! Ciampa kicks out! MACHO ELBOW! 1 COUNT OF DISRESPECT! SUPERKICK…NO SOLD! KICK TO THE KNEE! LETHAL INJECTION! Lethal wins the fall, and the match 2-0 at 17:12
Rating – **** – I’ll concede that this is very much a low-end 4* rating, but I’d heard some really bad things about this match. I’d heard people call it too short, people complain about the finish and assorted general moaning about the general quality of the match. On the whole I feel a lot of the criticism is exceptionally harsh. The first fall was incredibly tense, hard-fought and evenly matched with plenty of neat references to the Boiling Point 2012 match they were playing off. Even the (presumably) botched lungblower counter to the Lethal Injection integrated seamlessly into that story as Ciampa sold it as knee problems – again harping back to his catastrophic knee problems two years ago. I really dug the finish as well, particularly Ciampa’s psychotic no-selling…until Lethal kicked his knee. Jay has been crying out for some direction and purpose in ROH for over a year. He was a bit-part player in the ROH/SCUM feud and really hasn’t done anything of relevance since his feud with Kevin Steen finished at the 11th Anniversary Show. He’s also a pretty poor promo guy and a largely mediocre heel, so teaming him up with Truth (who also needs something to do) covers those flaws nicely. Of course I’d have liked them to have gotten more time to work another fall. The Lethal turn would have been considerably more effective if the fans had been invested in the match fully with the score tied at 1-1 – but in modern day ROH you can’t have everything you want. Overall this was a decent match and of considerably more quality and depth than anything else on the show so far.
Lethal and Martini celebrate together, cementing the fact that the first-ever 2-time ROH TV Champion is the newest member of the House Of Truth.
Michael Elgin vs Kevin Steen
This is the third match in their ‘major show’ trilogy. Steen took the first bout, defeating Elgin to retain his ROH World Title in 2012’s ROH MOTY at Glory By Honor 11. In 2013 Elgin won the second, defeating Mr Wrestling in the semi-finals of the World Title tournament at Death Before Dishonor 11. Now, tied at 1-1 on major events, they lock horns again. This time a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title is on the line – with the winner getting his opportunity at War Of The Worlds. It’s always been Elgin’s dream to go to Japan, whilst Steen has never won a major singles title in Japan.
Elgin has to block the Package Piledriver in the first five seconds…but can’t avoid the Cannonball for 2! They go to the floor…for Steen to throw Unbreakable with such force that the guardrails give way! The two men take it in turns killing each other against the rails, before Elgin blocks the Apron Bomb and lifts him up for the STALLING SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR! Steen is shaken up by that so forcibly returns the match to the ring with a spike DDT out of the ropes. DEAD-LIFT STALLING GERMAN by Elgin! Mr Wrestling blocks the Crossface…and in turn Elgin counters the Sharpshooter to land the Black Hole Slam! Corkscrew senton misses (like it normally does), further injuring a midsection injury Michael seems to have sustained somewhere along the way. Steen boots him in the ribs, bending him over into the pumphandle cradlebreaker. Cannonball attempted a second time…COUNTERED to a powerbomb! F-5 NAILED but only for a Steen nearfall. The two big dudes wearily get back to their feet and DESTROY each other with some fierce striking. Unbreakable gets the better of that exchange with a spinning elbow smash. Sadly his midsection is hurting him sufficiently that he can’t land the dead-lift superplex. Steen hauls him out of the ring into the APRON BOMB! CANNONBALL TO THE FLOOR MISSES! Steen writhes in pain and is dragged up to be powerbombed into the ringpost! TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER gets 2! Kevin punches the stomach to escape the Buckle Bomb, and lifts Elgin into the PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! ELGIN KICKS OUT! Such is the popularity of that finishing move that the crowd actually boo’s Elgin kicks out of it! STEEN-TON INTO THE KNEES! BOTH MEN DOWN! ST-Joe scores for Unbreakable, then the Buckle Bomb/Elgin Bomb combo. Steen kicks out to a noticeably better reaction than Elgin got! Michael goes for a superplex but gets flipped in mid-air to an AVALANCHE NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB! Package Piledriver blocked, into DEAD-LIFT ROLLING POWERBOMBS! Ridiculous strength from Elgin, but it took so much out of him he squirms on the mat alongside his fallen opponent. BUCKLE BOMB! NO SOLD! SLEEPER SUPLEX ON ELGIN! NO SOLD…LARIATOOOOOO! BUCKLE BOMB AGAIN! ELGIN HITS THE F*CKING PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! HE WINS! Elgin is victorious at 19:12
Rating – **** – I toyed with the idea of giving these guys an extra half star. In many ways they deserved it through sheer effort. Michael Elgin is very much Ring Of Honor’s go-to guy for WrestleMania weekend and this is the third year in a row he’s produced something really special. There’s no doubt this match was tremendously exciting, and it was helped by a great crowd who treated the two workers like major superstars. Ultimately though, I just couldn’t justify taking this into MOTYC territory. As exciting as it was, as hard as Steen and Elgin worked, and as great as the crowd were, it just lacked the real depth, purpose and sheer quality that their Glory By Honor 11 match had. At times this felt like they were sprinting between awesome spots and head-droppy, crowd-popping moments. It was like they knew they had some GREAT stuff they wanted to showcase but were always fighting against the clock to fit it all in. The solution was either give them more time, or drop a few sequences so they could really sell the effects of the crazy sh*t they were doing to each other. This was a hell of a match and will, quite possibly, steal the show. If you’re keeping score, it was also better than Death Before Dishonor 11 in my opinion. I really enjoyed it, but it was just a little too chaotic, a little too rushed and a little too spotty for me to go higher on the rating.
Adam Cole vs Jay Briscoe – ROH World Title Ladder Match
This is the fifth Ladder War in Ring Of Honor history, and Jay Briscoe has been in three of them giving him what could be a crucial experience edge in ROH’s most dangerous match. This one has been brewing ever since Nigel McGuinness stripped Briscoe of the World Title in July 2013. Jay never felt like he should have been stripped of the championship…but begrudgingly arrived in Philadelphia at Death Before Dishonor 11 ready to hand the belt over to the winner of the tournament to crown a new champion. Adam Cole won the tournament that night, and celebrated by superkicking Briscoe in the back of the head. An already unbalanced Jay Briscoe lost any remaining screws he may have had, and returned to in-ring competition in ROH carrying his own title belt – calling it the ‘Real World Title’ since he’d never been beaten. To make matters worse, Cole has never actually beaten Jay. He lost to him at Border Wars 2013, he couldn’t beat him at Final Battle 2013 (he cheated to beat Elgin in their triple threat) and has been pinned clean by Jay on three separate occasions in 2014. Nigel decided that he couldn’t tolerate two men with legitimate World Title claims running around causing chaos anymore. Although this doesn’t ‘restore the unbroken lineage of the World Title’ like ROH are trying to claim (sorry Delirious, you f*cked that up and it can’t be fixed) it will mean that whomever walks away from New Orleans can call themselves the undisputed Ring Of Honor World Champion.
Is Jay Briscoe wearing the Headbangers’ facepaint? He starts the match throwing punches, knowing full well that’s the kind of battle his opponent has no chance of winning. He then makes the mistake of trying a dive to the floor – obviously somewhere Cole has more expertise. The World Champion waffles him right in the face with a chair! Immediately Briscoe appears to be bleeding, which I guess was planned to some extent as Nigel is talking about wrestlers getting tested for blood-borne illnesses on commentary. DVD ON A CHAIR! Jay takes some serious punishment there, but not sufficient to keep him down long enough for Cole to bring a ladder into the ring. The World Champ gets the metal dropkicked into his face! Cole takes some NASTY chair shots to the head but retains enough of his senses to evade a Briscoe spear attempt to rocket his challenger into another chair in the corner. SUPLEX ON THE LADDER! Cole hit that with such force that Jay springs violently into the air…and Adam doesn’t let him rest. He starts tipping the point of the ladder onto his head – splitting Briscoe open BADLY! It’s not on a level with the Samoa Joe Cage Match, but it is a nasty gusher the likes of which we’ve not seen in ROH for sometime.
Keen to end it quickly now, he suplexes Cole on the entrance ramp and tosses another chair right into his skull! Did Nigel seriously give the ok to this match? It’s everything he hates. On the outside Briscoe props up a ladder between two open chairs TO SENTON BOMB COLE THROUGH THEM FROM THE APRON! He could probably win the match there, only instead he decides he wants to put Cole through a table as well! He fails with that but Adam takes so long setting up his next spot that it doesn’t matter. Jay POWERBOMBS him into a ladder! He tries to climb up the ropes…COLE PUNCHES HIM OFF – THROUGH A LADDER ON THE FLOOR! That was sick! Cole makes a run for the belt…but is dragged off for an ELECTRIC CHAIR DROP THROUGH A LADDER! Jay has some horrific bruises and a nasty cut on his back to go with his mangled face but it doesn’t stop him landing the Rude Awakening. The camera then zooms in Cole’s back where you can legitimately see the outline of ladder rungs in the bruising on his torso! Briscoe tries to set up another ladder spot, but when the ladder is too broken and gives way before he can hit it, he settles for a DISGUSTING DVD-drop through another open chair. He tries a frog splash through the ladder…only for Cole to move.
CHAIR DUEL! Cole tosses his chair into Jay’s face, yet barely has time to set up a ladder before he gets the same treatment back. Nigel McGuinness’ ashen, shaken face is seen in a close-up as these two engage in the very antithesis of what he’s been campaigning for over the last few years. They fight to the top of the ladder – with Jay headbutting Cole off! He has it won but finds himself distracted by Cole hurling abuse at him from the canvas! He stomps back down the ladder for the JAY DRILLER! Apparently he wants to kill the World Champion…but Matt Hardy runs in to save him with a TWIST OF FATE ON THE FLOOR! He tries to give Cole the Rhyno/Edge & Christian in TLC2 treatment by helping Cole up the ladder…only for Mark Briscoe to run in for a TOWER OF DOOM BOMB OFF THE LADDERS! Apparently he suffered a head injury earlier – which probably explains why Mark climbs up a HUGE ladder on the floor! MICHAEL BENNETT TIPS MARK OFF THE LADDER THROUGH A TABLE! Meanwhile inside the ring the challenger hits a second Jay Driller! JAY DRILLER ON BENNETT! Matt tries to give him a Twist Of Fate…JAY DRILLER ON HARDY! Cole and Briscoe race for the belts – and Adam shoves Briscoe down! COLE WINS! It’s over at 28:34
Rating – ****1/2 – This is a match that has really divided the critics. Some thought it was great, some thought it was overbooked, some hated the violence etc. Although it was one of the weaker ‘Ladder Wars’ (Steen-erico/Briscoes and Steen-erico/Wolves are still my favourites), I still thought this was a hell of a match. Firstly I’ll credit Ring Of Honor, Delirious, SBG, Nigel McGuinness and whomever else approved that they get so much creative freedom. The show has gone over three hours, but they still gave these guys plenty of time, let them bleed and let them get pretty damn violent. What I liked was that, for the majority of the match, the reliance wasn’t necessarily on big elaborate stunts – it was on beating the sh*t out of the opponent. In that context, the repeated and frequent use of incredibly violent chair shots did make a lot of sense. I know it was an approach criticised by many, but these guys were trying to convey that they wanted to KILL each other. You can’t do that when you are tamely doing WWE-style chair-taps to the spine. You wouldn’t want these two fine young workers doing this at every show, but as the blow-off to a feud which has been running since last September it was very fitting. It would be remiss of me not to mention all the run-ins at the end. Of course I’m not a massive fan of them, but they did contribute to the match somewhat. I loved Matt Hardy playing the part of Rhyno at WrestleMania 17 when he helped Edge & Christian climb to get the WWF Tag Titles. It was great to see Matt finally take the Jay Driller bump he didn’t take back when he challenged Jay for the World Title last year. Mark’s ladder bump to the floor was pretty crazy too. In the end this became a fitting reminder that, on rare occasions, throwing out the PG-stuff and letting your wrestlers crank up the violence, can actively contribute and improve your product. There is no f’n way Jay and Cole would have produced anything anywhere near as good as this in a ‘regular match’.
SIDENOTE – Much like Ladder War 1 in Chicago, I feel a degree of sympathy for these two men as the finish was very obviously rather awkward. Cole later revealed in an interview that he was supposed to shove Jay through a ladder but Matt Hardy (unaware of their plans) had moved it – meaning Jay rather tamely fell to the mat. It was rather anticlimactic given what had gone before, and made worse when Adam (like Jay at Man Up in 2007) had a clear struggle to unfasten the belts hanging above him.
Cole looks emotionally drained by that battle, but is joined in his celebrations in the aisle by Bennett, Hardy and Maria as the show ends.
Tape Rating – **** – About halfway through this DVD I was feeling rather frustrated. Every match had been decent, but nothing had blown me away. None of the matches had gotten any significant time, none of them had been particularly deep, and I felt like the first half of the show flew by in a blur of exciting but somewhat forgettable spot-fests. Thankfully things picked up rapidly in the second half. Ciampa/Lethal was serious fun with a conclusion which really keeps you interested in how the storyline progresses (making Jay Lethal interesting for the first time in at least six months). The IWGP #1 Contendership battle between Kevin Steen and Michael Elgin blew the roof off the arena. If Steen is leaving for the WWE that is how they should be booking him – producing thrilling matches, putting guys like Elgin over and getting to entertain live audiences with his in-ring work rather than just his comedy. And, though an acquired taste, the main event brought out the kind of brutality and violence that Sinclair’s ROH has so often shied away from – ending the Cole/Briscoe war and ‘unifying’ the World Championships in a suitably satisfying manner. Supercard Of Honor 8 took a while to heat up, but finally built into possibly the best show of the year thus far.
Top 3 Matches
3) Tommaso Ciampa vs Jay Lethal (****)
2) Michael Elgin vs Kevin Steen (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Jay Briscoe (****1/2)