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ROH Survival Of The Fittest Night One 11/7/2014

ROH 364 – Survival Of The Fittest 2014 Night 1 – 7th November 2014

The Survival Of The Fittest tournament isn’t quite an annual tradition in Ring Of Honor. It didn’t start until 2004 when the company had been existence for more than two years, and subsequently the promotion decided to skip the event in 2008 and 2013. Back in the day I wasn’t a particularly big fan of the concept, and during Gabe’s era it was traditionally one of my least favourite shows of the year. However, giving credit where it’s due, the two tournaments held under SBG’s watch (2011 and 2012) were pretty enjoyable and last time we saw the tournament it was streamlined for television, producing surprisingly effective results. This time around ROH and Sinclair have gone the other way, spreading the tournament over two nights – a move which I heartedly support since it gives the qualification matches a chance to breathe, shine and excel without the workers having to save gas in their tank to compete again later in the same show. Former SOTF winners Roderick Strong, Delirious and Jay Lethal lead a decent (if not overwhelming – it’s certainly not BOLA 2014…) field. There’s also some non-tournament action to look forward to as The Decade face The Addiction, and the Briscoes take on The Kingdom in a No DQ main event. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino are in Columbus, OH.

Will Ferrara vs Tommaso Ciampa
Ferrara was a last-minute replacement for Caprice Coleman who couldn’t make the show. He was hot for about five minutes at a recent TV taping when he eliminated the House Of Truth from the recent Honor Rumble. It was a pretty cool moment and instantly rose the kid’s stock. Unfortunately it was squashed out of him soon afterwards with a few emphatic defeats and underwhelming performances. People keep telling me they saw real improvements in Will’s work towards the end of 2014, so lets check out that theory. He faces a seriously dangerous opponent tonight in the unstable Tommaso Ciampa. The Sicilian Psychopath has only recently been reinstated from his suspension and is being kept on a short, ‘zero tolerance’ leash by Match Maker Nigel McGuinness.

Ciampa is already pushing ‘zero tolerance’ to the limit, and makes a point of stomping all over Kelly and Corino’s announce table during his entrance. Ferrara is a little sloppy out of the gate, misfiring a couple of times and noticeably stumbling…but the general point is that he is trying to show real courage and heart in the face of an intimidating opponent. He uses his speed and gets some applause for his continued efforts to stay out of Tommaso’s clutches. It’s his boyish naivety that costs him eventually as he accepts an obviously insincere handshake and gets pelted with chops. Ugly dropkick from Ferrara keeps him in the fight – and gives him a window of opportunity which he grabs with a tope suicida. Ciampa isn’t impressed and dumps him on his head with a German suplex. A Bare Knee strike looks to have ended this as a contest but Tommaso decides to violently assault Will against the rails rather than finish him. Credit to the crowd, they are going MENTAL for Ciampa’s act. Ferrara avoids a count-out and actually tries to trade chops with his dominating opponent…who does his best to break his jaw. The former TV Champ is actually really violent with his young opponent, stretching him with a knee driven right into his ear too. He then gets his gum and CHOPS IT INTO FERRARA’S FACE! And still Will refuses to quit! He shoots out of the corner into a tornado DDT. Annoyingly he follows that with a flurry of pathetically weak strikes which almost kill his comeback sequence right out of the gate. He steals Jimmy Jacobs’ tornado snap suplex spot (The Decade have to kill him now right?)…which Tommaso pretty much no-sells to nail a discus lariat. Project Ciampa blocked, so he gets a Kryptonite Neckbreaker instead. Ferrara SLAPS CIAMPA IN THE FACE! Sh*tty Code Red on Ciampa! KNOCK OUT KNEE STRIKE! Ciampa wins at 11:09

Rating – ** – Far too long, and Ferrara is still seriously green – but to give both men their props there was far more good than bad in this. I’m a huge Ciampa fan and his ring-style is perfectly suited to roughing up a plucky youngster in an environment like this. Ferrara’s execution is still pretty bad, and his strikes are mostly utter dross. But he really does have some outstanding facial acting ability, and he sells a beating exceptionally well. If he can get his actual ring-work up to the standard where it mirrors his decent portrayal of his character he could be a semi-solid prospect. That doesn’t mean this shouldn’t have had five minutes shaved off the time allocation though. It took so long Ciampa’s credibility was getting badly damaged – particularly since Jay Lethal recently defeated Ferrara with relative simplicity on TV recently.

Tadarius Thomas vs Roderick Strong
Both of these two are acknowledged as ‘former members of The Decade’. We saw TD walk out on a match with Adam Page recently to signify his departure…but have I missed Strong leaving? Either way, it’s been on the cards for a while. He and BJ Whitmer have vehemently disagreed over many things – including the treatment of their young boys, Strong’s refusal to accept Adam Page’s help in matches, and Whitmer’s insistence that Roderick prioritises his own career over the goals of The Decade. Roddy wasn’t a particularly big fan of Tadarius during their time in The Decade either, so don’t expect these two to ‘buddy up’ now they’re both out of the group.

Thomas snags Strong with a tumbling dropkick, becoming the latest guy to struggle with TD’s weird style. With his boxing and capoeira background, Strong is also unable to bully and out-strike Tadarius as he normally would. Thomas snapmares him into another kick to the face causing the former World Champion to crumple into the ropes. This match has gone in a totally different direction to what you may have expected and TD is completely dominant. He out-strikes Roddy, stretches him on the ground and even aggressively chokes him on the bottom rope. The match is more than six minutes old before Roderick finally lands a serious offensive strike by catching his opponent for a cradle backbreaker. Olympic Slam gets 2, only for Tadarius to block Death By Roderick into a CRADLE OLYMPIC SLAM! Strong is knocked off the apron with a jumping enzi…and wiped out with a tope con hilo! RUNNING ENZI INTO THE CROWD! Back in the ring Thomas nails the half nelson suplex, but apparently his exploits on the floor have taken their toll on him too as he doesn’t cover right away. Capo strike countered into End Of Heartache! Stronghold! Roddy wins in a flash at 10:57

Rating – ** – Similarly to Ciampa/Ferrara, there was actually a lot to like about this. I enjoyed the rather surprising approach they took by having Thomas dominate proceedings. He lacks the charisma or character to really carry a match of this profile, but it certainly made this one more unique and memorable than it otherwise might have been. In truth, if you could combine Tadarius’ flashes of in-ring skill with Ferrara’s flashes of charisma and crowd connection you might have something. As hard as TD was working it never really felt like he was doing anything more than killing time before Strong inevitably polished him off. I’d suggest it’s time to cut Thomas from the roster

Adam Page vs Cedric Alexander
It wasn’t long ago that Cedric had real problems with The Decade. Roderick Strong singled him out and bullied him for months, memorably costing him a dream match with Kazuchika Okada at War Of The Worlds. How poetic would it be if Alexander could book his place in the SOTF finals with a victory over a Decade representative? Page now appears to be BJ Whitmer’s personal protégé, and has been searching for a serious breakout moment for months. Will this tournament be his ticket to a more prominent role in Ring Of Honor?

Page still carries the Decade water bucket, but has taken Strong’s name off it and replaced it with his own. He shows the signature aggression of his mentor BJ as he starts assaulting Alexander from the bell. Cedric has to get dirty in the trenches just to survive and brawls with Page on the floor before shoving him into the ringpost for some respite. Adam tries to smash his face into the turnbuckles only for Ced to explode with a spectacular dropkick (which makes Ferrara’s earlier look like a pile of dog turd). BJ Whitmer has to intervene, distracting Alexander so Page can take him out with the shooting star HEADBUTT off the apron. Whitmer then hands Page some water, indicating that he now considers him more of an equal. Amusingly, Page (with kneepads around his shins like a classic villain) uses it to spit in Cedric’s face. On the other side of the ring BJ has stolen Kevin Kelly’s headset and is taunting Steve Corino, using his son Colby and his sister Allison Danger. Page scores 2 with a stalling wrist clutch suplex…and Cedric hits back with the Three Amigos. Lumbar Check blocked, so he NAILS Page with the 540 Kick instead for 2! Page ducks a kick out of the corner and jumps into a neckbreaker combo as the momentum switches back and forth. SOMERSAULT LARIAT from Page to counter Cedric’s attempted tope atomico! Adam’s Apple (apparently what his inverted Tombstone is called) gets blocked…and Cedric crunches into him with a mid-ring IED. FLIPPING PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! He tries for his springboard lariat back in…COUNTERED TO THE INVERTED TOMBSTONE! PAGE WINS! It has to be considered a minor upset, but Page is advancing to the finals at 10:38

Rating – *** – Delirious sucks. How the hell did this get less time than a Will Ferrara match? These two have basically been on autopilot for most of their careers in Ring Of Honor. They are both loosely termed ‘prospects’, and are kept around for their ability to produce decent matches in most situations, but in truth they’ve never once really been able to cut loose, steal a show and make a name for themselves. Alexander’s feud with Strong was exceptional, but even after winning its concluding match Cedric’s career wasn’t enhanced at all. Page’s performances and character work have been rapidly improving for months…but he’s still not really been given a major opportunity to hit his straps and prove his worth in a high profile singles match. It felt like you could see all those frustrations here as these two talented young kids threw everything they had at each other. They moved with amazing speed, produced some really awesome sequences…and once again Page’s ability to carry a storyline (his gradual ascent to full Decade membership) even in brief undercard sprint was a real plus.

Delirious vs Adam Cole
We’ve seen the Lizard Man in the ring slightly more often this year. This weekend he is invited into the tournament as a former Survival Of The Fittest winner (in 2006 – my least favourite SOTF incidentally). Having lost to one member of The Kingdom already in 2014 when he fell to Michael Bennett during the Road To Best In The World weekend, he gets another pop at arguably the top faction in the company as he faces Adam Cole. Cole has had his interests in the World Title renewed now Michael Elgin no longer holds the belt, and is anxious to secure a date with his old enemy Jay Briscoe as soon as possible. He’ll know the quickest route to the World Champion is an SOTF win.

I’m trying to figure out if the sh*tty camera work during Delirious’ traditional freak-out to start the match is a deliberate artistic choice or just some guy being lousy at his job. Cole is the latest wrestler to struggle to come to terms with Delirious’ insanity…and nearly loses his mind when the masked man steals his gimmick and repeatedly screams ‘Delirious…baybay’. The Lizard Man then snatches the timekeeper (who presumably is one of his students in the Dojo) and SUPLEXES HIM on top of Cole! He tries to do the same thing to Scarlett Bordeaux but thankfully she is rescued by his opponent. Cobra Stretch blocked too, and Adam capitalises to ram his shoulder into the ringpost. Some of Cole’s subsequent heel antics are every bit as entertaining as Delirious’ stuff – from pissing one segment of fans off enormously by pretending to throw Delirious at them, to choking him with his ring jacket, to applying the mega-run-up chinlock. Delirious tries to fight back in the corner but gets brutally superkicked in the knees. He fights hard to thwart Cole from going to the Figure 4…eventually countering him into the HOTTEST backslide nearfall I’ve seen in years. Just as he looks to build some momentum and rattle off some of his signature combos Cole puts him back onto the ground with a DVD over the knee. Sleeper hold applied, causing Corino to mark out at some of the old school tactics both guys are using. Delirious escapes with a back rake…only for Cole to kick his legs out again into REPEATED SHINING WIZARDS! Delirious kicks out at 1! SUPERKICK! NO SOLD! SUPERKICK AGAIN! DELIRIOUS KICKS OUT! Florida Key countered to the Cobra Stretch! It’s Cole’s turn to barely survive a submission attempt, and in the aftermath both are seriously sluggish getting back to their feet. Panic Attack scores for Delirious…SHADOWS OVER HELL COUNTERED WITH A MID-AIR SUPERKICK! Cradlebreaker nailed, but STILL Delirious refuses to quit. FIGURE 4! Even on the brink of passing out from the pain Delirious still grabs Todd Sinclair’s arm to stop him ringing the bell! Panama Sunrise blocked with a headbutt to the gut! BIZARRO DRIVER! He lines up Shadows Over Hell again…and gets SHOVED OFF THE TOP ROPE TO THE FLOOR! Immediately he grabs his knee and rolls around in pain – prompting a vintage Adam Cole tactic as he demands Sinclair return to the ring and count him out. FIGURE 4 LEGLOCK ON THE FLOOR! Cole finally wins by count-out at 23:14

Rating – **** – I find it curious that Delirious booked his own match to get PLENTY of time. Having said that, it rocked. Despite only being part-time (at best) in ROH, he’s actually had a pretty decent 2014 in terms of his Ring Of Honor work. I thought his gimmick meshed really well with the classic heel work of Adam Cole. In the absence of Kevin Steen, Cole is easily the most engrossing, unique and well-rounded worker left under a Ring Of Honor contract. He effortlessly changed between cocky prick belittling a masked comedy worker he thought was below him, to an absolute savage looking to destroy him at all costs when he dared to fight back. Watching two talented professionals move silkily through the gears in a 20+ minute battle used to be what Ring Of Honor was all about. It’s an increasingly rare thing these days, but on the whole these guys did a hell of a job with their generous time allowance. The finish, harping back to Cole’s original heel turn back in 2013 with Roderick Strong, was masterful.

Jay Lethal vs Hanson
The stakes are doubly high in this one. Not only is a place in the finals of the SOTF tournament up for grabs, but Hanson knows a victory over the dominant TV Champion would put him at the front of the queue for a future title shot. Lethal believes that his championship is the most prestigious in Ring Of Honor, and believes he is the top guy in the company as a result. He’d like to back up those claims by becoming the first two-time Survival Of The Fittest winner.

Lethal has some Hoopla Hotties with him, who make out as part of his entrance. He opts to chop Hanson instead of following the Code Of Honor…only for much hilarity to ensue as Hanson simply ignores the strikes and continues to demand a handshake. He forcibly takes it in the end in the midst of a dominant opening salvo. Nothing Jay tries seems to have any impact, and Hanson even has time to pay tribute to his ROH ally Michael Elgin by dishing out a stalling suplex. Even grabbing the massive beard and snapping it over the top rope does little to help the TV Champion…so Martini steps in to help his man. He pulls Lethal off Hanson’s shoulders as he lines up a charge towards the ringpost…and Jay capitalises with a TOPE SUICIDA INTO THE GUARDRAILS! Now Lethal’s strikes have more impact, particularly after he drives the spine of the 2014 TPT winner into the side of the ring. An Indian deathlock keeps Hanson on the mat, negating his obvious size and strength as Lethal presses home his advantage. Perhaps it serves to slow the big man down somewhat, as Lethal has time to get his knees up and block a Warrior Splash from him. But Lethal doesn’t do enough damage when he has the opportunity and soon finds himself on the receiving end of more dominating power moves from his opponent. CARTWHEEL LARIAT lands for 2. Spin Kick Of Doom ducked…so Hanson hits the anti-clockwise powerslam instead. Bronco Buster blocked with a kick to the nuts! Macho Elbow nailed! Jay sets up the Lethal Injection…and eats a HANDSPRING ELBOW BY HANSON! KOBASHI MOONSAULT MISSES! LETHAL COMBINATION! Lethal Injection BLOCKED! SPIN KICK OF DOOM NAILED! HANSON ADVANCES! Another shock as Hanson defeats the TV Champ at 15:23

Rating – *** – I’ve seen some reports and reviews really gush about this match, so perhaps I had my hopes a little high. It was perfectly decent (I really like both guys), but if I’m being really honest it didn’t feel like it really got going until about three minutes before the end. The first twelve minutes or so felt like two guys plodding through their usual spots with no real rhyme or reason behind it. They nearly lost this awesome crowd and things felt like they were meandering until that insane handspring elbow counter from Hanson. The man Kevin Kelly cringingly calls ‘War Beard’ is a genuine prospect, but still something of a rough diamond when it comes to high profile singles matches at this point. This was (just about) more hit than miss…

The super-over ‘Streak’ angle comes to Columbus as RD Evans, Moose and Veda Scott are introduced to the audience. Evans is a week away from his big TV Title shot at Glory By Honor 13 and cuts a surprisingly heartfelt promo about his desire to win and prove he isn’t a joke. He states his gratitude to Veda Scott, Ramon and Moose for supporting him too. Eventually Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer cut him off for ‘wasting time’…so Jimmy can cut his own promo instead. He tries to address the situation with Roderick Strong, but is interrupted by RD so instead urges Moose to ditch the Barrister and join The Decade as a young boy. Adam Page runs in for a three-on-one beating for Moose…until The Addiction interrupt since they still want their match.

‘Ring Of Honor is a place for the best professional wrestlers in the world…and YOU are a washed up football player’ – Jimmy Jacobs to Moose.

SIDENOTE – That whole segment was rather muddled. I enjoyed RD’s promo, although it’s serious and emotional nature rather killed off a lot of the fun of the ‘New Streak’ angle. The comedy has been based on RD’s self-belief and commitment to the gag forcibly getting it over with the fans. By acknowledging it as a ‘joke’ himself it immediately takes a lot of the fun away. It does set the stage for a keenly-awaited showdown with Jay Lethal next week though. The less said about ROH’s attempts to get Moose over as a babyface the better…

The Addiction vs Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer
The Decade cost Daniels and Kazarian the Tag Titles at Field Of Honor, as they openly resent them for crawling back to Ring Of Honor only after leaving TNA. The men formerly known as Bad Influence are still chasing revenge, and are also well aware that after a number of failed championship opportunities they need to be racking up as many wins as possible if they want more of reDRagon.

Daniels is one of the best promo guys in the business…so naturally it’s Kazarian who always seems to do way too much of The Addiction’s talking. He distracts The Decade as the Fallen Angel hops the ropes and flies at them with a suicide dive. Jacobs retaliates by tripping Kaz’s heels as he squares off with Whitmer, handing the advantage back to the former Tag Champions. Considering the masses of experience these four have it’s actually rather inexcusable how sloppy and disjointed these opening exchanges are. BJ and Frankie come close to straight-up botching a basic leapfrog spot like two rookies. Jacobs tries his best to redeem things by sailing through the ropes and shoving Daniels into the guardrails with a tope suicida. It’s a cue for Decade to start isolating Daniels. Whitmer is a former ally of Daniels in The Prophecy and takes great pleasure in cynically stomping the hands of his old leader. After several minutes Daniels blocks the Contra Code…but finds his hot tag thwarted by Adam Page dragging Kazarian off the apron. Whitmer rather ruins the moment by accidentally elbowing Jacobs in the face, so moments later Chris gets to make the tag anyway. Jimmy recovers in time to save his partner from the Flux Capacitor, running through Kazarian with a spear. Contra Code gets a close, but almost totally heat-less nearfall. Daniels hits the Fall From Grace on Whitmer, before once again Page gets involved to help his allies. He gets in the faces of both Daniels and Kazarian…until Moose runs in and takes him out with the flipping spear. Total Elimination on Whitmer! Celebrity Rehab on Jacobs! The Addiction score the win in a LONG 12:02

Rating – ** – This one really shines a spotlight on everything that is wrong with Ring Of Honor at present. Daniels, Kazarian, Jacobs and Whitmer have been around for countless years, and have enough about them to sleepwalk to a semi-decent match. And therein lies the problem: these four extremely talented performers are being left to sleepwalk through their careers at the moment. The Addiction have been back in ROH since June and still haven’t done ANYTHING of any real value or substance, other than be made to look like chumps by losing consecutive title matches against reDRagon. Jacobs and Whitmer are a strong team…but The Decade seems to have lost all purpose and focus too. Initially they had a clear purpose – training young boys ‘their way’, beating respect into the unappreciative younger members of the roster and victimising those who left ROH and came back like AJ and Chris Hero. Now they’ve been treading water in this will they/won’t they slow-burn split angle that nobody wanted or cares about. And all that is before you get on to the sheer ridiculousness of Moose in ROH at all. He can’t work, and now we’re flip-flopping between whether he’s a heel or a face too. This match was just there. It started badly, had some okay formulaic work in the middle, then ended in pretty uninspired fashion too. ROH badly needs a change of creative if this is the best Delirious can come up with…

BJ Whitmer gets into another shoving contest with Steve Corino in the aftermath of his loss. Eventually Chris Daniels has to run The Decade off…

ACH vs Matt Sydal
This is our final SOTF qualification match, with the winner joining Ciampa, Strong, Page, Cole and Hanson in the finals. Matt Sydal made it to the final two back in 2006, and knows that Survival Of The Fittest represents his quickest route to a shot at the World Title he failed to win during his last ROH run. ACH’s stock is on the rise after a storming TV Title Match with Jay Lethal on television and an outstanding performance in this year’s Champions vs All Stars match. Will the experience and cunning of Sydal win out, or will the dynamism and youthful exuberance of ACH see him through?

The tone for this one is set with a super-intense handshake. Their desire to prove themselves better than the opponent is such that they even start bickering about who has a better armdrag. ACH rather cockily tussles Sydal’s (ridiculous) hair…and backs up an even more arrogant backflip by sticking a dropkick into Matt’s face. Scissors kick in the ropes scores as well as ACH continues to outfox the veteran at every turn. Sydal eventually sees enough and flies at him with a running knee strike for 2. ACH tries to sit up angrily but puts his head directly in the path of a standing double stomp. Realising he isn’t the quicker of the two here Sydal looks to slow the pace, only to be sent packing to the floor. SOCCER KICK off the apron by ACH! With Matt knocked silly from that ACH now looks to aggressively take the fight too him – raking the face and cranking into a series of neck-centric submission holds. It forces Sydal to increase the stakes himself, using the ropes to his advantage in a handing headscissors. Incredibly ACH knocks him back then takes flight to the floor with a picture perfect pescado. Sydal aims a desperate kick at his leg…and ducks out of his path causing ACH’s knees to rebound nastily off the ropes. Showing his own desperation to win Matt is on the legs in a heartbeat by applying deathlocks and kneebars. The fact that ACH has a World Title Match at Glory By Honor 13 only adds to the drama here. He has a World Title shot in the bank and doesn’t NEED the win in the same way Sydal does, which is reflected in how aggressively Matt pursues the legs. He has rendered ACH unable to apply a suplex…but gets dumped on his neck again seconds later when ACH ducks another running knee. ACH goes for a flying elbow off the top but is met with a MID-AIR SPINNING HEEL KICK! Somehow he gets his knees up to block Sydal’s standing moonsault…but of course it does more damage to his legs. A corkscrew enzi follows it, and of course makes ACH’s leg injury even worse. LEG SELLING DOUBLE STOMP TO THE NECK gets 2! He can’t capitalise though and eventually staggers into a backbreaker/standing moonsault combo. Here It Is Driver blocked…INTO THE HERO’S GRIP for 2! His leg was too injured to maintain the bridge! Sunset flip bomb to the floor COUNTERED into a double stomp across the throat! METEORA OFF THE APRON BY SYDAL! BACK FLIP KICK BY ACH! LIMPING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! BEST 450 SPLASH EVER MISSES! HERE IT IS DRIVER…COUNTERED TO A SMALL PACKAGE FOR 2! How much does ACH have left in the tank? He slingshots into the swinging flatliner…and again takes an age trying to scale the ropes. VERTICAL LEAP SUPER RANA BY SYDAL! SYDAL PRESS NAILED! Sydal wins at 19:31

Rating – **** – It’s been a pretty lean year for MOTYC’s in ROH, so this stands as one of Ring Of Honor’s best matches in 2014. It wasn’t quite good enough for me to go higher on my rating (ACH’s leg selling was patchy, and I really wanted the work on his leg to play more of a factor in the finish) but this was astonishingly good. These two knew the crowd wanted to see them trade high spots – and they got to that eventually – but what made this match great was the terrific story-based grounding they gave the flurries at the end. ACH already had a title shot in his pocket, so winning SOTF wasn’t his main mission here, his objective was to make his name at Sydal’s expense. To that end he was arrogant and cocky, yet at the same time extremely persistent and aggressive when it came to trading skills with the former WWE superstar. Sydal, on the other hand, DOES need to win the tournament. He became frustrated as the younger, faster and more athletic competitor thwarted him at every turn in such a big match…so when the opportunity to attack a leg presented itself he took it without hesitating. When it finally did boil down to the two of them tossing the spots around, the combination of an injured leg and Sydal’s superior experience meant the veteran emerged victorious. There won’t be a better match than this all weekend, and I’d be surprised if Sydal has had a better match anywhere since his return to the indies in the summer.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Michael Bennett/Matt Taven – No DQ Match
It was just two weeks ago on television that we saw Matt Taven revealed as the newest member of The Kingdom. He and Bennett are good friends in real life, and during a tour of NJPW towards the end of the year received real praise for their work as a duo. Here The Kingdom continue to be thorns in the side of the World Champion and his younger brother. Adam Cole has his targets set on a date with Jay Briscoe after winning Survival Of The Fittest, therefore the assignment for his cohorts here is to soften him up before they meet.

Tempers quickly flare such is the level of animosity between the two teams, and Mark is the first to bring weapons into play as he flings Steve Corino’s chair into Bennett’s face. Ringside personnel are running for cover as the wild brawl continues. Taven barely survives going through a table…as inside the ring Jay cracks Bennett over the head with a beer. Taven attempts a tope suicida and EATS A STEEL CHAIR from Jay! RUNNING BLOCKBUSTER THROUGH A CHAIR from Mark to Taven! Matt tries to escape and is hauled into the guardrails with a Russian legsweep, and on the other side of the ring Jay absolutely NAILS Michael with a glass bottle of beer from a fan. RUNNING SENTON OFF A CHAIR TO THE FLOOR BY MARK! The World Champion tears the set apart and drags the metal entrance ramp down the aisle to ringside, but misses Mark getting a chair booted into his face by Taven. Twist Of Fate/Swanton Bomb combo by The Kingdom for 2! As Mark crawls towards the ropes Bennett whacks him in the balls with a steel chair. Maria tries to hand Bennett the Title Of Love, only for Mark to intercept it and nail him with it! TURNBUCKLE URINAGE ON TAVEN! SPEAR BY BENNETT! He and Mark battle on the apron…until Jay pulls Michael down for a DVD ON THE METAL RAMP! FROGGY BOW THROUGH A TABLE ON THE FLOOR BY MARK! The dominant Briscoe Brothers fill the ring with chairs – opening up a stack of them adjacent to each other. Bennett saves Taven from a disastrous Doomsday Device…as Maria hits Jay in the back with a chair. The champ gets tied in the ropes, then held there with a HANGING CRUCIFIX BY MARIA! SPIKE PILEDRIVER THROUGH THE CHAIRS BY TAVEN AND BENNETT! Kingdom win at 13:27

Rating – **** – I absolutely loved this. I’ve championed Taven and Bennett for a long time in my ROH review series, so it’s a pleasure seeing them get a real shot at doing something credible with their careers. And it’s great to see this feud FINALLY taken in a logical direction. Cole and Jay Briscoe have been feuding for more than a year at this point. Bennett and Maria have been involved since early 2014, so by the time this one was booked this issue was starting to feel somewhat interminable. However, a heated, weapon-filled grudge match like this does wonders to reinvigorate things. The Briscoes are probably past their best as straight workers but they can still brawl with the best of them, as this one proved. Taven and Bennett relished their chance to shine in a plunder-packed grudge main event and marked the opportunity with a killer little heel display which pretty much ensures they’ll be a regular team behind Adam Cole moving forward. They didn’t steal the show from Sydal/ACH, but very little else was as outright entertaining as this all evening.

Adam Cole struts through the curtain to watch as his colleagues continue to assault Jay Briscoe after the match. TRIPLE SUPERKICK ON JAY! The show ends with The Kingdom standing tall…

Tape Rating – *** – My usual issues surrounding Ring Of Honor’s product still remain. I think it’s inexcusable that a DVD/VOD release which costs more than a month’s worth of WWE Network barely lasts two and a half hours. I may really enjoy Delirious the wrestler, but if he truly is the one pulling the creative strings and booking ROH at the moment then he may have to go because creatively everything is almost painfully stagnant. BUT, as usual the sheer hard work of this talented roster drag a show riddled with erroneous and perplexing booking decisions out of the mire and into something memorable. Cole/Delirious, Sydal/ACH and Kingdom/Briscoes are all awesome matches which really surprised me with their quality. There’s not a bad match to be seen on the show in fairness, with Tommaso Ciampa’s skills even dragging a legitimately decent match out of Will Ferrara of all people. In a year which has been provided a consistently moderate, averagely enjoyable product this is another middle of the road, semi-decent show – separated from some of the poorer 2014 events thanks to a trio of outstanding matches which deliver definite bang for your buck.

Top 3 Matches
3) Adam Cole vs Delirious (****)
2) Michael Bennett/Matt Taven vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe (****)
1) Matt Sydal vs ACH (****)

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