ROH Winter Warriors Tour: Atlanta 2/21/2015

ROH 370 – Winter Warriors Tour: Atlanta – 21st February 2015

I thought the last Winter Warriors Tour event in Dayton was outstanding and, in fact, one of the best ROH live events in quite some time. It certainly rejuvenated my interest in Ring Of Honor for the first time in a while. However, as good as that show was, it’s actually this event which most people have singled out as the highlight of the tour. Given the card it is pretty easy to understand why though. reDRagon have high profile singles matches, with Kyle O’Reilly working Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish stepping up to AJ Styles. Moose gets his highest profile singles match to date against ACH, there is a star-studded Six Man Mayhem, and also Delirious and Matt Sydal together inside an ROH ring for the first time in years. All that is below the main event, and supposed conclusion to the LONG Briscoes vs Kingdom feud – with Jay and Mark taking on Taven and Bennett in the first ever Tag Team Armageddon Match. Kevin Kelly and a revolving cast of guest commentators are live in Atlanta, GA.

Mike Posey vs Caprice Coleman
We haven’t seen Mike Posey for a while, and in that period he has adopted a new gimmick. Now known as ‘P-Dog’, he is essentially a mash up of what Jack Evans and John Cena were doing more than a decade ago. It is every bit as sad as you would expect having read that description. Caprice has been relegated to commentary duty in recent months and will relish the chance to reignite his own in-ring career at the expense of Posey tonight.

The ring announcer tonight looks like Todd Gordon. Posey eats the 619 dropkick around the ringpost, but mounts a comeback doing basically all the same spots he used to do before he went gangster. Coleman looks for the Trinity only to see it countered into a slingshot dropkick in the corner. One Inch Punch knocks P-Dog back though, this time allowing Caprice to hit the Trinity for 2. Sky Splitter wins it for Coleman at 05:00

Rating – * – This should have been cut from the DVD, or relegated to the bonus features. I like Caprice but this was the very definition of pointless and a very strange way to start what still ranks to many as the best ROH show of 2015 thus far. One begrudging comment I will make is that Posey is actually more entertaining with this silly ‘P-Dog’ gimmick. He is still completely bland as a worker, but did occasionally get some mild chuckles with his silly character.

Corey Hollis vs Jonathan Gresham
From P-Dog acting like a goof we now cut straight to his former tag partner in Alabama Attitude. That team fell apart during the 2014 Top Prospect Tournament and hasn’t worked out particularly well for Hollis. Having said that, he was always seen as the better worker in Alabama Attitude – and has a more than capable opponent in the returning Jon Gresham. Gresham was involved in the inaugural Top Prospect Tournament on HDNet and, despite working a solid match, got lost in the shuffle and never got called back after SBG took over later that year. He’s made a solid career working across Europe and in promotions like CZW and is considered by many (myself included) to be a rather under-rated talent. This should have opened the show in my opinion.

BJ Whitmer and Adam Page are at ringside scouting these guys as potential young boys for The Decade. As you’d expect given the size and skillset of these two it shouldn’t surprise you that the opening exchanges are ground-based and frantically paced. Hollis tries to control Gresham’s arm, which doesn’t go down well and leads to both of them pummelling each other with elbow smashes. Adam Page encourages Hollis to use a steel chair…and Whitmer then assaults him when he opts not to use it. That’s obviously a DQ at 04:39

Rating – N/A – Both guys are solid talents. I’d rather have seen them get to work an actual match and let people like Mike Posey get stuck doing angles with The Decade. In terms of skill levels both Gresham and Hollis have been ready for Ring Of Honor for a while. Their issue is that, under Sinclair’s ownership and with TV audiences to appease, their lack of height counts against them.

The Decade rough up both Hollis and Gresham…but as they try to leave Corey grabs a microphone and challenges them to a match.

BJ Whitmer/Adam Page vs Corey Hollis/Jonathan Gresham
Maybe this could be Gresham and Hollis’ way into ROH. Their styles do compliment each other well, and they’d make for a hell of a team. Gresham has plenty of experience as a tag team wrestler, and has earned plenty of plaudits for his work teaming with Chris Brookes in Europe.

Being the bully that he is, Whitmer goes straight for Gresham (the smallest man in the match). He doesn’t count on Jon breaking out all kinds of lucha skills though, and is soon sent packing to the outside nursing a leg injury. Hollis wipes out both members of The Decade with a pescado and suddenly the crowd are really into this! SHOOTING STAR OFF THE APRON BY PAGE! It’s thanks to the youngest member of The Decade that they are able to isolate Corey. The unique styles of Whitmer and Page compliment each other well – with BJ adopting lazy bully-boy tactics whilst Adam utilises a classical, old-school heel approach. Page is even using some Roderick Strong moves to send a message to him before he meets BJ on ppv in a couple of weeks. Gresham gets a tag and flies in looking like a black Little Guido. MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR wipes out Whitmer! Page comes to his mentor’s aid with the slingshot somersault lariat. Hollis counters the inverted Tombstone into a STANDING SHIRANUI BACKBREAKER! LARIAT BY WHITMER! Gresham has another hack at Whitmer’s damaged leg then rolls him into an anklelock! Page tries to save…ANKLELOCK ON HIM! COUNTERED TO THE INVERTED TOMBSTONE! The Decade win at 09:06

Rating – *** – This came out of nowhere but kick-started this show with a real bang. Page and Whitmer are really gelling as a heel unit and, as I said during play-by-play, have contrasting styles which really work well together as a tag team. Page has been ready for this more prominent role in ROH for a long time and looks like he is relishing every second of it. Gresham and Hollis were great foils for them too. Both of them have been around for a while, have amassed significant skills over the years, and knew how to play the feisty underdog role to perfection. With the reported increased focus on the tag team division again in 2015 I could see Gresham and Hollis carving out a niche for themselves as a duo. Pint-sized they may be – but they are far better fits for the product and style Ring Of Honor are looking to sell than people like Beer City Bruiser, Ashley Sixx and quite a few other guys who’ve been getting opportunities recently.

Delirious vs Matt Sydal
These two have a friendship and rivalry which dates back years. Before Sydal left for the WWE they had contested battles across the Ring Of Honor circuit – including a 2/3 Falls Match in England. Now Sydal has returned to the company Delirious couldn’t resist dusting off his boots (metaphorically at least, he wrestles barefoot these days) for another clash against his old friend. The Lizard Man is only part-time these days but this is infinitely more serious for Matt, who is still trying to rebound from losing his TV Title shot at Final Battle 2014, and has begun 2015 with two high profile losses on TV.

I hate Sydal’s entrance (where he sprints and dives under the ropes). It seems so needlessly dangerous considering how notoriously fragile his legs have been in recent years. I do like that he is fully aware of what will happen once the bell rings, so deliberately makes Todd Sinclair wait until he is prepared to Delirious’ traditional freak-out. Delirious is just as aware of what his opponent brings to the table though, and opts to engage Reborn in plenty of mat-based chain-wrestling exchanges rather than let him build up speed. Sydal dials up the intensity after getting Delirious’ saliva smeared into his face and hits a running knee strike in the corner. Despite Delirious’ best efforts to keep Matt down, finally Sydal does manage to knock him out of the ring…for a METEORA OFF THE APRON! The Slice gets 2 and prompts the Lizard Man to break out some of his most bewitching of chain wrestling holds. Even that isn’t enough to prevent Matt from nailing the standing moonsault. He goes for a frankensteiner…only for Delirious to crotch him on the ropes for the Panic Attack. Shadows Over Hell MISSES! Head kicks from Sydal…but Delirious won’t go down! JUMPING KNEE STRIKES…FOR 2! Here It Is Driver COUNTERED to Chemical Imbalance II! Cobra Stretch blocked…HEAD DROP COBRA CLUTCH SUPLEX INSTEAD! NO SOLD! LARIAT BY SYDAL! SYDAL PRESS! He wins at 13:48

Rating – *** – I enjoyed this more than a 3* rating might suggest. Whilst it certainly won’t go down as their greatest Ring Of Honor match, it served an interesting dual purpose of paying homage to some of their classic matches from years ago…whilst also effectively showing off how much they’ve changed since then. Delirious is still bat crap crazy, but he has slowed down in recent years (as a part timer) and reigned in a lot of the maniacal antics in favour of solid wrestling exchanges. Sydal too isn’t the athlete he once was. He isn’t as quick and his movements aren’t as dynamic either. But he makes up for that with masses of experience in world class promotions like WWE and Dragon Gate and has added a real stiff striking element to his game that often goes unappreciated. Delirious doesn’t book shows like Gabe, and is much more old school in his idea that the undercard shouldn’t take attention from the main events (out-dated in my book, but that’s the way it is). This one was pretty good in the way it entertained the audience without taking any heat off what is to come later in the show.

Kyle O’Reilly vs Roderick Strong
It feels like ages since we’ve seen these two in the ring together. They used to have quite the rivalry back when Kyle was Davey Richards’ protégé and Roddy was in pursuit of Davey’s World Title. Much has changed since those days – with O’Reilly maturing into a phenomenal talent and now forming one half of one of the most lethal tag teams in professional wrestling. Strong is striking out on his own again after leaving The Decade, and reaffirmed that he remains amongst the elite wrestlers on the planet with a quite stunning match against Alberto El Patron at the Winter Warriors Dayton event. He still has big plans for 2015 though, so could use a victory over a champion like O’Reilly here.

The postures of both men tell you how much of a big match this is. Each feels like it is a chance to prove a point at the expense of the other and they soon roll around on the deck looking to gain an early advantage. First blood goes to O’Reilly who comes close to locking in his patented armbreaker and has Mr ROH grappling for the ropes. Kyle pursues Strong with some tenacious striking too, until Roddy spies an opportunity to scoop him up into a backbreaker. In just a few moves Roderick has weakened his opponent up enough to reel off a flurry of chops – and gain superiority on the canvas with an abdominal stretch. O’Reilly needs a big score and gets one by snapping Strong’s arm over the top rope. He follows that by driving it into the guardrails…a move which forces Roderick completely on the defensive whilst nursing a clear arm injury. McGuinness-style Divorce Court lands next, along with some heavy duty kicks across the injured bicep. This has a real old-school ROH feel – and the crowd add to that vibe with a lengthy duelling chant for both men. Strong does the classic gear-switching comeback sequence…but lands on his bad arm executing a dropkick and finds it difficult to get off the mat again. O’Reilly counters the Olympic Slam…only to be dragged out of the corner into an ARM-SELLING cradle backbreaker for 2! Death By Roderick COUNTERED TO END TIME! THEN TO A FUJIWARA ARMBAR! He does the move anyway, but using a Jimmy Jacobs hold to get another window was a delicious extra layer of nastiness by Kyle there. HANGING ARMBAR IN THE ROPES! He takes too long climbing the ropes and pays with a HUGE superplex…which in turn hurts Roddy’s arm so much in executing that it’s O’Reilly who nearly profits from it. End Of Heartache attempted BUT THE ARM GIVES WAY! AXE & SMASH BY KYLE! NO SOLD! KNEE STRIKE BY RODDY! BOTH MEN DOWN! KICKS VS CHOPS DUEL! Kyle goes after the arm, but gets caught with DEATH BY RODERICK! NO SOLD! JAWBREAKER MCLARIAT! BRAINBUSTER! ARM-AGEDDON! COUNTERED TO THE STRONGHOLD! COUNTERED TO A SMALL PACKAGE FOR 2! Seemingly running on empty both men clamber back to their feet swinging for the fences. Jawbreaker McLariat…COUNTERED INTO THE SICK KICK! END OF HEARTACHE! STRONG WINS! At 16:30, Mr ROH emerges victorious in a hell of a match!

Rating – ****1/2 – I make that MOTYC’s for Roderick at consecutive shows, and now I understand why people are raving about his work in 2015. I don’t think this one quite had the subtle, nuanced details of the El Patron match but it was still a classic battle – and one which really took me back to ROH’s golden previous eras. At times it almost felt like I was watching Davey Richards do battle with Roderick once again as his protégé remorselessly assaulted a limb, looking to negate the constant onslaught against his own back that one always expects with a Strong match. From the super intense opening period, through the duelling chants in the middle period to the all-action, counter-packed closing sequences this one oozed big match feel and is well worth going out of your way to see. And don’t I feel like a lemon having just criticised Delirious sticking to the ‘old way’ of booking a card with the undercard serving merely as appetisers for the main event. Fair play to the Lizard Man, he gave these guys license to go out and steal the show – and they absolutely delivered.

ACH vs Moose
Although these two don’t technically have a rivalry going as yet, both have made it well-known that they feel they are ready for championship opportunities and prominent spots on the card. Moose threw down the gauntlet to the World Champion in Dayton, whilst ACH has been granted the 13th Anni Show match with AJ Styles that he has been chasing for weeks. Truth be told ACH has been delivering impressive performances in main event level matches for years now. What he lacks is wins – and there couldn’t be a better place to kick-start his rise to the top than by ending Moose’s undefeated streak. Moose is accompanied by another former NFL player, although since I don’t watch American football the significance of that is entirely lost on me.

ACH makes fun of Moose which doesn’t go down well…but instantly he starts using his quickness to keep out of the bigger man’s clutches. Eventually he gets too cocky, and is caught on the TOP ROPE with a standing dropkick. GUARDRAIL GIANT SWING! Moose hit that with such force that he almost wins via count-out inside three minutes. ACH tries to retaliate with a comedy body slam and, of course, gets squashed like a pancake. The former Atlanta Falcon (apparently) senses that victory is near and taunts ACH in a receipt for his cockiness before the bell. He then plucks his smaller opponent out of the air for a STANDING fallaway slam. Then Moose makes a mistake, jumping from the canvas TO THE TOP ROPE only to miss a rebound crossbody block! PK Kick from the apron nailed, followed by a RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR by ACH! He tries to do some ‘flippy sh*t’ back into the ring though, only to be countered into a pop-up lariat. Stokely Hathaway feeds his client a chair, which Moose sets up in the corner…but the plan backfires and Moose himself ends up crashing head-first into the weapon. Double stomp by ACH, and he even manages to get the big man up for a DVD! ROPE RUN BELLY TO BELLY SUPERPLEX BY MOOSE! Rolling Spear gets him the win at 12:15

Rating – *** – This was far from the perfect match or performance, but after a turgid first few months in Ring Of Honor Moose is really starting to click. Suddenly he seems to understand how to present himself as a monster, and how to use his amazing physical attributes to his advantage in creating a decent wrestling match. He still has some major issues – facially he looks bored as sh*t the whole time, and his selling (i.e. standing there, looking at his opponent and waiting to let them do stuff to him) needs a lot of work – but the improvements are coming thick and fast. ACH wasn’t perfect in this either for the record, although his off-kilter, oddball take on the David vs Goliath wrestling match made for interesting viewing throughout. This could have been awful and derailed the momentum both men have been generating recently, so that it was this good should be counted as a real success.

Stokely Hathaway confronts ACH, seemingly trying to recruit him as a managerial client. His only reward for doing so is to take ACH’s 450 Splash. ACH throws up some AJ Styles poses to celebrate…

Will Ferrara vs Cedric Alexander vs Hanson vs Michael Elgin vs Tommaso Ciampa vs Jay Lethal
Tensions will be running high amongst these six men, and especially between the three that are now within touching distance of Las Vegas and their World Title fourway at the 13th Anniversary Show. There is plenty of history between Elgin, Ciampa and Hanson…and plenty of animosity that could boil over within the confines of this Six Man Mayhem. Jay Lethal has had his issues with the likes of Cedric, Ferrara and Ciampa in the past too, and has very little to gain from participating here. He’ll be well aware that, if he were to be pinned tonight, it would almost certainly enable the victor to challenge for a TV Title shot.

Only J. Diesel accompanies Lethal tonight, and botches literally every sentence in a brief pre-match promo. That guy is f*cking atrocious. Ferrara, who is replacing Jimmy Jacobs due to travel difficulties, seizes the opportunity to make a statement and launches into an all-out assault on the TV Champ. Elgin breaks up the action by tagging himself in…then walking away to keep everyone waiting. He takes potshots at both Hanson and Tommaso, and when they drag him out of the ring Cedric pounces to SOMERSAULT PLANCHA onto all three of them! TOPE TORNADO DDT ON THE FLOOR by Ferrara! ELGIN AWESOMEBOMB’S HIM OVER THE TOP ROPE! With bodies surrounding the ring it is the perfect set-up for Lethal to breakout his rolling tope suicidas all over the place! Ciampa stops him from hitting Hail To The King as Hanson MURDERS Elgin on the floor with a mafia kick. Tommaso, meanwhile, has been unfortunately captured in the corner by Ferrara and in shades of their awesome No DQ Match on TV in Florida, Alexander bounces with repeated IED’s. SNAP GERMAN from Elgin to Hanson…who then turns into Kick 2 Kill by Cedric. Alexander lines up another K2K on Ferrara…who COUNTERS TO A CODEBREAKER! He then hits a super rana on Hanson – whipping him in turn into a spear on Tommaso! Elgin has a clear ring so lifts Lethal into the stalling vertical suplex, and hangs on even after Cedric kicks him in the ribs. Tommaso gets payback on Alexander with repeated Bare Knee smashes, turns right into a somersault pescado on Elgin…then pops up again to BARE KNEE LETHAL INTO THE CROWD! Bronco Buster by Hanson! Superkick by Lethal! Hanson ducks the Lethal Injection…but tries a handspring himself and flops embarrassingly on his head. That really hurt the flow, but Jay gets us right back into proceedings with HAIL TO THE KING! Alexander tries to dive off the ropes too…RIGHT INTO THE SPIN KICK OF DOOM! Hanson scores a huge victory before the 13th Anniversary at 13:59

Rating – *** – It’s a shame Hanson made a hash of that big spot at the end, because up to that point this had been a really seamless and enjoyable little spotfest. All six contributed something a little different, and all played their respective roles rather well. Ferrara, in particular, stood out by only ever getting involved under opportunistic circumstances. You’d always see him sneaking into the ring, or up behind the bigger workers when they weren’t expecting it. Elgin was the antagonist (which is just right for him a week before Vegas) and all his interactions with Hanson and Ciampa were solid. It has to be said, the only man with real star quality here seemed to be Jay Lethal. For all the skills the other five may have brought to the table, Lethal has an x-factor about him these days and he was money every time he got involved (including his dismissive stomp on Hanson’s face after ‘War Beard’ had flopped on the worst handspring attempt you could ever wish to see).

Bobby Fish vs AJ Styles
Although currently one half of the Tag Champions, and a member of dominant tag team reDRagon, Fish is an accomplished singles worker in his own right. If you recall, after he returned to the company to form his team with Kyle O’Reilly, it actually took well over a year for him to be pinned by anyone on the entire roster (and even then it was by Jay Briscoe – who hasn’t lost in even longer than that). This is undoubtedly Fish’s biggest singles match in his Ring Of Honor career. So big, in fact, that it will have ramifications on his career in New Japan as well. Styles is part of the dominant Bullet Club and currently holds the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Although that belt isn’t on the line tonight, Fish knows a win here would send shockwaves all the way to Japan and immeasurably boost his stock in both promotions.

We are in AJ’s home state so he gets a colossal ovation. Quite sensibly Fish tries to nullify the crowd, leaving the ring frequently and looking to slow the pace as much as possible. He is a seasoned mixed martial artist too and seems happy to engage Styles in a battle of strikes. AJ needs a route into the match and finds it by going after Bobby’s arm. The attack is savage and lasts for several minutes before driving Fish out of the ring again. Kyle O’Reilly has to come to his partner’s rescue, distracting Styles and enabling Fish to rattle off a kick to the Phenomenal One’s shins. He crashes down stomach-first onto the apron, and the Tag Champion is on that midsection in a flash. Moments later he drops him ribs-first on the top rope after an attempted springboard and assumes total control. Grounded bodyscissors applied, grinding onto AJ’s injury whilst also giving him a chance to recuperate his own injured arm. Styles tries to fight back with the springboard elbow, though he is noticeably slowed after sustaining so much damage through the middle portion of the match. He wants to end things quickly with a Styles Clash…but gets speared into the corner, absorbing more punishment in his core. TURNBUCKLE EXPLODER by Fish! SNAP SUPLEX INTO THE BUCKLES BY AJ! Both men down! Fish gets some respite by falling to the floor…and he takes full advantage with a tilta-whirl backbreaker. He then makes a costly error by entering into AJ’s aerial terrain and finds his attempt at an Asai Moonsault blocked. SPRINGBOARD 450 BY AJ…FISH COUNTERS WITH KNEES TO THE BAD RIBS! They start unloading on each other with elbow smashes…until Styles turns around and flies into the PELE KICK! Fish retaliates with his falcon arrow, putting his opponent right down onto his sore midsection once again. BLOODY SUNDAY! Styles Clash blocked…HOLLOW POINT INSTEAD! STYLES CLASH! AJ wins at 19:22

Rating – **** – This was almost what has become the ‘typical’ AJ Styles match since his return to ROH. By that I mean, outstanding, well-thought out, largely well-executed and a step up in quality beyond what a great deal of this roster are capable of. AJ’s match with Kyle O’Reilly during Death Before Dishonor weekend last year was marginally more exciting, but these guys had a really unique and intriguing dynamic. Fish is somebody who has legitimately competed in shoot fights and, even though he isn’t traditionally considered a ‘main event singles wrestler’, his credentials and skill level made him immediately believable as an opponent to AJ. And that was critical since his work on the midsection carried the majority of the match. This one really did live or die on how entertaining and believable you found Bobby’s heat segment to be – and I for one was gripped.

Michael Bennett/Matt Taven vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe – Tag Team Armageddon Match
This is being billed as the match to finally settle the war between The Kingdom and the Briscoes. The battles have raged up and down the ROH circuit for more than a year. Maria still has the Title Of Love, Jay still has the World Title, the Briscoes have never been able to put the cocky, precocious Bennett/Taven combo in their place – and likewise The Kingdom have never scored that definitive, feud-ending, career-defining victory over the legendary Briscoe Brothers that would elevate them to the next level. This is 2/3 Falls, and each fall has a different stipulation – although exactly what stipulations are never actually explained to those of us watching on DVD.

Pop of the night undoubtedly goes to the Briscoes. They are even more over than AJ! The first fall is a standard tag match so things won’t immediately get crazy. It’s a format which heavily favours the Briscoes though, since they’ve been teaming together for far longer than Bennett and Taven. Their fluidity as a team sees them dominate the opening minutes…until Maria interjects for the first time and trips Mark. The teamwork isn’t as fluent or as extravagant but The Kingdom effectively isolate the younger Briscoe. Mark mounts a comeback with the urinage into the turnbuckles then tags his brother in for the Rude Awakening. DOOMSDAY DEVICE on Taven! SPRINGBOARD DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON BENNETT! They haven’t hit the springboard version for a long time, and it earns the Briscoes the first fall at 07:04. The second fall is a Table Match much to the horror of a helpless Maria Kanellis. Taven saves his partner from an ill-fated table ride…only for Mark to save his brother from the Spike Piledriver! Cactus Elbow on Matt, as inside the ring Jay is throwing chairs at The Prodigy. You’d back the Briscoes in a brawl just as much as you would in a standard tag match and with the help of those steel chairs they run rampant over The Kingdom. Maria stops Mark from putting Taven through a table…before her men scoop up the World Champion and give him a SPIKE PILEDRIVER OFF THE APRON AND THROUGH A TABLE! HOLY SH*T! It’s 1-1 at 12:42! Adam Cole arrives at ringside to watch the concluding part of the match (Falls Count Anywhere rules) – once again refusing to speak to Kevin Kelly. With Jay Briscoe incapacitated by that crazy table spot, Bennett and Taven are free to have their way with Mark. They hit the Twist Of Fate/Swanton Bomb combo, then hammer a steel chair into his balls. BACK BODY DROP INTO THE CROWD by Mark! The fight spills over the guardrails and in amongst the people – something you don’t often see after the Sinclair takeover. Taven is busted open and running for cover, and as he does so he ruefully glances over his shoulder to see the Briscoes hauling a table over the railings. Mark climbs up one of the lighting scaffolds! FROG SPLASH OFF THE SCAFFOLD THROUGH A TABLE! That appears to take both he and Matt Taven out of the match as Bennett gives Jay a number of harsh trips into the guardrails. The champ has a cut on the head too, and doesn’t give an inch as he and Michael take turns booting each other right in the face. JAY DRILLER NAILED! BENNETT KICKS OUT! He hits Briscoe in the balls then lands the JUMPING PILEDRIVER! JAY KICKS OUT! Taven and Mark are back in…with Taven jumping the ropes into a RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE! DOUBLE SUPERKICK ON JAY! RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON THE FLOOR BY THE KINGDOM! BENNETT WINS! It’s a colossal win for The Kingdom, ending in a bloody and hard-fought 26:25

Rating – **** – I’m not sure if I preferred this or Survival Of The Fittest 2014. Certainly this one started more slowly, but what a raging climax it built to. I got the point of the first fall. It was important in that it emphasised exactly how dominant the Briscoes are as a team. If the point is to put Taven and Bennett over with a big win, you may as well spend some time reminding everyone exactly how much of an achievement beating the Briscoes actually is. In truth though, it didn’t really start going up through the gears until the second fall…and by the third it was sheer mayhem. Some of the spots were astonishing, but honestly my favourite part of this was how much of a concerted effort there was to elevate The Kingdom. The whole point here was to make them main eventers – earning their stripes the hard way after months and years scrapping away on the undercard. They took everything the veteran Briscoe Brothers could throw at them, surviving Doomsday Devices, Jay Drillers, scaffold bumps, blood loss and even fighting back from a 1-0 deficit. Delirious has a huge responsibility now to not let The Kingdom slip back into the midcard. Cedric Alexander had a great feud-ending victory over Roderick Strong back at Best In The World last year. He was primed for big things after that, but was booked so shoddily in the months that followed he wound up right back where he started. If Bennett and Taven aren’t to suffer the same fate now then Delirious needs to manage them much better.

Adam Cole makes a point of walking out rather than joining the rest of The Kingdom, but the celebrations continue anyway as Bennett and Taven revel in the biggest win of their careers.

Tape Rating – **** – Following on from the Winter Warriors Dayton event, this was another absolutely stellar show from Ring Of Honor. I’m finally starting to see what other fans have been saying about 2015. I was sceptical after Nashville and Dearborn, but after two great back to back live events I am genuinely interested in what ROH is doing for the first time in a while. Delirious still has a way to go as a booker and a story-teller, but the lay-outs of these last two cards have been far better. I haven’t felt like I’m watching the same show over and over again. The undercard hasn’t felt like a predictable slog to be endured before getting to a main event I might want to see. In fact, other than the Coleman/Posey match (that should have been cut), there’s not a bad match on this show at all. Roderick Strong pulls out a second consecutive MOTYC on the Winter Warriors Tour, AJ Styles appears in his home state and delivers his usual killer performance, the main event was absolutely wild…and against all my better judgement I’m even starting to enjoy watching Moose. If you’re putting me on the spot I marginally preferred Dayton (four 4* matches versus only three on this DVD – plus Roderick/Alberto was just marginally better than Roderick/O’Reilly) but in all honesty both shows should be part of your collection. I understand that I’m not the target market or the ‘typical ROH fan’ anymore. I know the product isn’t necessarily geared around my tastes in the way it used to be. But for the first time, over the last two shows I’ve felt there has been far more of an effective, harmonious and positive balance between ROH’s new style and it’s old school. More of the same please…

Top 3 Matches
3) AJ Styles vs Bobby Fish (****)
2) Michael Bennett/Matt Taven vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe (****)
1) Roderick Strong vs Kyle O’Reilly (****1/2)

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