ROH Winter Warriors Tour: Dearborn 1/30/2015

ROH 368 – Winter Warriors Tour: Dearborn – 30th January 2015

It’s fair to say that I was only lukewarm on the Winter Warriors Nashville TV episodes. Alberto vs Daniels was pretty good, but everything else was decidedly average. However, I’ve heard significantly better things about the subsequent Winter Warriors Tour shows (albeit largely Dayton and Atlanta rather than this one). The Dearborn market has never been a top priority for Ring Of Honor, so I’m not expecting fireworks tonight, but for a B-show the line up isn’t half bad. Jay Briscoe and Jay Lethal both defend their respective titles, with Michael Bennett challenging for the World Title and Roderick Strong going for the TV belt. Below that we have Matt Sydal against Matt Taven in what could be an undercard gem if they live up to their capabilities, Tadarius Thomas’ ROH farewell in a grudge match against former Decade mentor Jimmy Jacobs plus Alberto El Patron making his first live event appearance in intriguing clash of styles against ACH. Kevin Kelly will call the action from Dearborn, MI on his own. Unfortunately.

Jay Briscoe heads to the ring and doesn’t want to wait any longer, and calls Michael Bennett out so they can have their scheduled main event a couple of hours early.

Jay Briscoe vs Michael Bennett – ROH World Title Match
Briscoe has defeated all three male members of The Kingdom in recent times. Adam Cole fell at Final Battle 2014, whilst Bennett and Taven have both been beaten on the SBG TV show. However, despite failing to win Jay’s belt The Kingdom do keep using their superior numbers to inflict beatings on both Jay and his little brother Mark. Maria Kanellis also retains possession of the Title Of Love, which is Jay’s property that he wants back. Is tonight the night he brings his ‘Real World Title’ belt home?

Bobby Cruise is commentating! He’s probably better than Kevin Kelly! As usual we begin with a big brawl which, as usual, features distraction from Maria. She invades the commentary booth as well to sing her husband’s praises even as Briscoe manhandles him on the floor. To Bennett’s credit he doesn’t need any help from Maria – instead fighting back into the match on his own by dishing out a dropkick to Jay as he dives off the top rope. Twist Of Fate blocked so Mike hits a back suplex then applies Go Back To Japan! Some rugged striking from the champion enables him to escape, landing a Roaring Elbow for 2. But once again Jay gets caught jumping off the ropes – this time eating a superkick. Spear blocked…Jay Driller blocked…BACK to the Spear! Bennett sets up his Piledriver, which is still banned as a result of his loss to Kevin Steen at Final Battle 2013. The ensuing argument with Todd Sinclair leads to him getting a falcon arrow…then accidentally superkicking his own wife off the apron as she scrambles to help him! Jay Driller wins it for Briscoe at 09:47

Rating – ** – Nothing remarkable, and nothing you haven’t seen done plenty of times before. Another frustratingly mediocre, throwaway title defence which does little to add prestige to the World Title or Jay Briscoe’s championship reign. However, it was nevertheless a perfectly decent match. Jay, like his brother, pretty much wrestles on autopilot in all but his biggest matches so didn’t bring a whole lot to the table – but thankfully the Bennett/Maria double act was entertaining enough to ensure this was a lively opener.

To the surprise of literally nobody, Matt Taven does a run in to ambush Jay Briscoe after his win…and of course Mark Briscoe is soon out as well. The Briscoes are fed up of this endless feud, and demand Nigel McGuinness sanction one last match between them so they can settle their issues.

BJ Whitmer vs Hanson
This should be physical if nothing else. Hanson is one of the next generation of Ring Of Honor stars which The Decade supposedly object to, however, he has bigger priorities than the likes of their group right now. He is part of the ‘High Stakes’ fourway World Title match at the 13th Anniversary ppv and knows he needs victories to build momentum going into that.

Whitmer shows his experience by avoiding getting into a strike exchange with his sizeable opponent, and instead struts around the ring playing mindgames. After several minutes of posturing he eventually pokes ‘War Beard’ (urgh) in the eyes…to which Hanson retorts by flattening him. The big man flips over the ropes with ease, taking to the skies to hit such a forceful diving elbow that BJ is knocked clean out of the ring. Whitmer can throw strikes too though and blocks an attempted tope suicida with an elbow smash of his own. He scores with a swinging neckbreaker on the floor, going to work on that body part in a way few others have attempted thus far in his ROH career. He remains in the ascendancy for several minutes…until Hanson scoops him into the corner and pounds on his chest. Bronco Buster misses but the Inverted Powerslam doesn’t. Spin Kick Of Doom ducked…RYDIEN BOMB gets 2! Whitmer kicks at the neck then dumps him on it with a Saito suplex! EXPLODER ’98…for 2! CARTWHEEL LARIAT by Hanson! He wins at 09:53

Rating – *** – The live crowd weren’t as into this as the opener (I heard plenty of ‘boring’ catcalls), but I found it significantly preferable. BJ Whitmer doesn’t often get the chance to wrestle ‘smart’ matches and, even though they were working well within themselves, I thought he carried things with his cerebral performance. Be it through avoiding strike exchanges with the big man, playing the cocky heel veteran, or working the neck (a tactic not many have tried with Hanson thus far) he always seemed to be working to a strategy and a gameplan against the explosive, enthusiastic but largely untested up and comer. Hanson continues to improve, and will only get better the more he is put in the ring with veterans like BJ. As an aside, I could have done without Stokely Hathaway on commentary rabbiting away about Moose for most of this match.

Tyson Dux vs Tommaso Ciampa
Like Hanson before him, Ciampa is another guy in the four-man World Title Match in Vegas – so therefore another man who needs to start chalking up victories in preparation for the ppv. He’s not been too successful in recent months, but carries around a sizeable chip on his shoulder following his continued grievances with Match Maker Nigel McGuinness, and nearly defeating Jay Briscoe for the World Title in England at the ROH/PCW shows. His tune-up for Vegas comes in the form of Tyson Dux, the mentor and friend of another of his opponents in the High Stakes Match – Michael Elgin.

Dux appears to have gained some personality since we last saw him, and it turns out I preferred it when he was generic. Between his idiotic dancing, a couple of semi-botches and some extremely sloppy and telegraphed chaining the first few minutes are pretty ugly. Tyson throws around some rather embarrassing strikes too so it’s a genuine relief when Ciampa strings him from the ropes and drops him neck first on the mat. In fact, much of Tommaso’s offence consists of clubbing the Canadian across the back of the head. That is pretty fun to watch, but unfortunately most of the match has Dux on offence some reason. Between that and Stokely Hathaway’s dreadful commentary this is becoming a real chore to sit through. The crowd is entirely silent other than a few hecklers as this dreary filler drones on. Finally Ciampa lands a Bare Knee strike, followed by a huge cannonball from the apron to the floor that is entirely out of place against the tediousness of the rest of the match. SLINGSHOT FLATLINER gets 2! Annoyingly, Dux basically no sells that to hit a fisherman buster. End this f*cking match already! He hits a sunset flip bomb and a couple of lariats (to precisely zero reaction) and the crowd are crying out for this to be over. Project Ciampa countered to a snap DVD for another heatless nearfall. Ciampa no sells that for no reason and hits a superplex…only for Tyson to no sell that right back. F*ck me this is terrible. Ciampa eventually mercy kills the match with a lariat at 14:12

Rating – DUD – I enjoyed a couple of spots Ciampa threw out there, but other than that I have literally nothing good to say about this match. ROH has been screwing guys on time allowances for years, but they decide to give this one nearly fifteen minutes? And why the hell was 90% of it Tyson Dux (the enhancement talent) on offence? Ciampa is supposed to be being built towards a World Title shot, but instead struggles to beat a guy who can’t even get on the roster? That booking makes absolutely no sense. Couple that startling lack of logic with a catalogue of ludicrous no-selling, horrible dancing, goofy smiles and obvious botches and you have yourselves a pretty diabolical viewing experience.

Jimmy Jacobs vs Tadarius Thomas
To the surprise of very few people, TD’s split from The Decade amounted to nothing. He does have some impressive skills but he was never a comfortable fit in Ring Of Honor. His positioning as a Decade ‘young boy’ felt even more awkward and in truth his retirement/exit from ROH is well overdue. He says farewell in his home state, in something of a grudge match against his former mentor in The Decade. Unfortunately this is also Jimmy’s home state and because he is much better, much more entertaining and has much more history in the company than Thomas, he’s far more popular.

Has TD invested in new gear for one match? He lures Jacobs into a strike exchange, and the sight of him effortlessly dodging and weaving out of the way of Jimmy’s frantic and hopeless strikes is pretty fun. The commentators are seriously talking about how many kids Stokely Hathaway plans on having rather than talk about the match. Please bring Dave Prazak back. Tadarius is dominant and Jacobs is completely incapable of surviving as his former protégé beats him all over the arena. Even when Jimmy thinks he has escaped and found refuge Thomas comes flying at him again with the tope con hilo. Quite wisely the veteran takes the match to the ground and tries to slow his opponent down with a bodyscissors. Capoeira strikes from Thomas but he is feeling the effects of several minutes trapped on the canvas and struggles to follow up. Kawada kicks next, into a wrist clutch slam for 2. Jimmy hits back with his spear, although like Tadarius earlier he is now significantly slowed thanks to the damage sustained thus far. Contra Code (after a lecture on how let down he was by TD’s betrayal) gets 2 for Jacobs. End Time locked in, almost inflicting a humiliating submission defeat on a man who is planning to head back to MMA after this match. He cuts Jimmy off in the corner…for a TOP ROPE MOUSTACHE RIDE! HALF NELSON SUPLEX! NO SOLD! SPEAR BY JIMMY! Both men down! Tadarius looks for an top rope half nelson suplex…COUNTERED TO AN AVALANCHE CONTRA CODE! Jacobs picks up the win at 16:44

Rating – *** –
For the first time on this show, I felt like I was watching something memorable here. It wasn’t without its limitations, like a slow opening period and TD’s complete lack of personality, but you can’t fault the action and effort. The second half, with Thomas frantically battling to preserve his dignity and end his ROH career on a high even as Jimmy’s superior strategy and experience started to show, was genuinely very dramatic. Thomas hasn’t wrestled many matches that have gone this long in ROH, with good reason, but Jacobs has been doing this for years and he took the lead with the kind of maturity and polish that make you appreciate how much of a special talent he has been on the indies over the years.

Thomas gets a polite ‘thank you TD’ chant, which his workrate has warranted even if his achievements in the promotion probably don’t. Jimmy doesn’t shake his hand, but does acknowledge his skills and thank him for the match.

Matt Taven vs Matt Sydal
After failing to take the TV Title from Jay Lethal back at Final Battle, Matt Sydal will be searching for renewed purpose to his Ring Of Honor career. He’s been sound enough in the ring since his comeback, but is still searching for that hook or breakthrough moment to reignite his metaphorical spark. Taven, on the other hand, has a star very much on the rise right now. With New Japan taking a shine to his act alongside Bennett and Maria, and with The Kingdom becoming increasingly prominent on ROH TV he is now flourishing. A quite remarkable turnaround considering this was a man who ‘quit’ the company last summer after Field Of Honor. There are no championships or immediate storyline consequences here, but plenty of pride and upwards momentum on the card at stake.

Taven spends the first minute frolicking outside the ring with streamers, which an odd spectacle in itself, and is made even more strange by Sydal practicing his handstands instead of giving chase. Despite being the ‘veteran’ in the ring, Sydal is also significantly quicker and bewilders the younger competitor as he comes at him from all angles. He scores early with the Slice…then stretches Taven out with a MutaLock. What I like is that, unlike in his House Of Truth days, Taven actually tries to fight his opponent by himself. He doesn’t rely on interference and instead uses his own skill to start attacking Sydal’s arm. As he does so Adam Cole forcibly ejects Stokely Hathaway from the announce table and sits alongside Kevin Kelly in total silence (which is a massive improvement on Stokely). Taven tips Reborn over the ropes then flies at him with a SUICIDE DIVE TO THE FLOOR! That landing seemed to further exacerbate Sydal’s shoulder injury too. The assault continues in the form of armbar DDT’s, shoulderbreakers and wristlocks and as we tick past ten minutes the former WWE superstar seems on the brink of defeat. He gets a weak boot up to block an attempted Asai moonsault, but is reduced to fighting almost exclusively with kicks such is the extent of his shoulder injury. It doesn’t appear to stop him landing the standing moonsault though…but then does leave him vulnerable as Taven counters a tornado DDT into a Blue Thunder driver. Sydal climbs the ropes…only to be cut off with a dropkick TO THE SHOULDER! Frankensteiner…COUNTERED to the Meteora by Reborn! Adam Cole appears on the apron to distract Sydal, causing him to walk into a springboard enzi. SINGLE LEAP RANA BY SYDAL! SYDAL PRESS NAILED! He wins at 15:16

Rating – *** – I’d seen lukewarm reviews of this match, but I actually really liked it. Sydal has been incredibly consistent since his return and oozes quality whenever he steps into an ROH ring. He could have sold the shoulder better, but everything else he did had a polish and professionalism to it that most of the roster could really learn from. He, however, wasn’t what I enjoyed most about this – it was Taven’s performance. I’ve been a champion of Matt Taven for a long time, going back to the days when he was a flashy enhancement talent during Jim Cornette’s reign…but he is also one of a rather large class of midcard talent ROH has right now that has been in this company for years without ever delivering a career-defining MOTYC. He is still a way away from that, but he really does grow in confidence with every show that passes during his Kingdom tenure. Admittedly he was a little uninspired with his work on the arm at times – but this version of Matt Taven was infinitely preferable to the ‘Hoopla’ era TV Title-ruining version we had in 2013.

Dru Onyx vs Romantic Touch
Just one look at Dru will tell you that this match isn’t going to be pretty. You can see wrestlers like him at every single independent wrestling show on the planet. The chunky, out of shape, ageing weekend warrior who has plenty of enthusiasm but lacks the skill, the dedication or the charisma to ‘make it’. The only reason he is booked on this show is because he forked out to attend one of the ludicrous training seminars. And, even if by some miracle, he is a Bryan Danielson trapped in a JYD/Moose hybrid body – he is lumbered with the biggest waste of space on the entire roster in Romantic Touch.

Onyx is perplexed and irritated by Touch’s usual silliness. He does them in every match big fella, did you do no homework? The Aries tumbling reverse elbow has no effect, but sadly for Onyx he’s already completely gassed so can’t keep up anyway. Seriously, he’s so winded he can barely stand, meaning he has his shoulders hunched and his neck dangerously exposed as Titus gathers momentum for a somersault plancha. It’s like Dru is wading through quicksand before every move he makes – lumbering into a slow motion back suplex then bumbling around like an asthmatic pensioner. He grabs quite literally the sloppiest wristlock imaginable just to catch his breath. Vader Bomb gets 2 and expends so much energy that Onyx is basically dead on his feet. The crowd are being remarkably generous by not sh*tting all over this. Dru is too winded to even bother climbing the ropes to attempt a superplex so flops backwards into a sloppy ass Samoan drop instead. He misses a fatty cannonball altogether (Rhett didn’t move, he just missed because he’s f*cking terrible). Titus finally puts him out of his misery with the Thrust Buster at 09:14

Rating – DUD – It would take a pretty impressive feat of sucking ass to produce a worse match than Ciampa/Dux, so congatulations to Dru Onyx because he topped it. Kevin Steen apparently endorsed him, which makes me think Kevin Steen has a horrible eye for spotting talent. I’ve been watching ROH since 2002 and have reviewed pretty much everything they’ve done in that time – and Onyx’s performance was comfortably one of the worst I’ve seen in that thirteen years. He made an absolute farce of ROH’s bullsh*t training seminar recruitment system, and proved beyond all shadow of doubt that if you’re willing to pay your money you can now buy your way into ROH bookings regardless of how much (or, more pertinently, how LITTLE) talent you have. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and has paid his dues down the years to earn a shot like this – but when you’re out of breath inside the first minute you don’t belong in a wrestling ring. This was so disgracefully bad that it should have been cut from the DVD.

Michael Elgin vs Mark Briscoe
Sour grapes Elgin is currently a man on a mission. He’s alienated himself from the entire roster and fanbase, but has only one concern – winning back his ROH Championship. He lost it to Mark’s big brother last year but is now within touching distance of winning it back after being booked in the 13th Anniversary Show main event. He would dearly love to prepare for Vegas with a dominant win over the World Champion’s brother.

Am I alone in really liking Elgin’s new entrance music? He comes straight out of the blocks with some stiff strikes in Briscoe’s direction. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA OVER THE TURNBUCKLES BY MARK! Elgin was probably caught off guard by that since it wasn’t part of Mark’s usual routine. Normal service is soon resumed as he thinks about the Cactus Elbow, before settling for an assortment of Redneck Kung Fu strikes. Elgin, on the other hand, keeps things delightfully simple – standing in the middle of the ring and battering his opponent with elbows and knees. From nowhere Elgin thinks about a SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT…and when he misses that he still recovers quickly enough to catch Briscoe and drop him with a slingshot neckbreaker. More goofy kung fu stuff from Mark, SO ELGIN ELBOWS HIM IN THE F*CKING JAW! He goes for one last elbow strike only for it to be countered into Mark’s urinage for 2. Unbreakable refuses to stay down for the Froggy Bow, stomping on Briscoe’s chest before crushing him with the Tiger Body Press! Mark is pissed now, and abandons the annoying Redneck Kung Fu crap in favour of straight up punches to the face! Uncle Mule Kick scores…only for Elgin to scoop him up for a Buckle Bomb. JAY DRILLER ON MARK! Elgin leaves with an impressive victory at 09:06

Rating – *** – I didn’t have high hopes for this. Elgin has been frustrating to watch since losing the World Title, and Mark has been frustrating to watch for the last two years – so I was surprised at just how well these two clicked. Elgin still has tendencies to do showy, flashy, ‘impressive for the sake of it’ spots which don’t fit his bitter, aggressive new personality – but he was far more relatable here as he ignored all of Mark’s usual comedy spots and spent the majority of the match beating the piss out of him. In fact, my favourite part of this one was when Mark realised his stupid kung fu flap strikes weren’t doing anything so instead balled up his fist and threw down with the big Canadian. One thing Mark is very good at is making his opponents look good. He knew his job here was to rebuild Elgin going into Vegas, and you were certainly left with the impression that this was a significant victory for him. Hopefully this was the first indication of a return to form for Michael Elgin. He is far too talented to let his career dissipate into mediocrity…

Elgin reaches under the ring and pulls out some turnbuckle bolts – and fishhooks them into Mark’s mouth to taunt his World Champion older brother. When Jay comes to his rescue, Elgin is ready and lays him out with his own title belt. What Elgin wasn’t expecting was Tommaso Ciampa – who himself runs in to make a point. Hanson piles in too…leading to a brawl between all four Vegas participants. It’s Elgin who is left standing and clutching the title belt as Jay Briscoe is bloodied on the floor.

ACH vs Alberto El Patron
There was a point last year when it seemed like ACH was blowing his big chance. He’d produced a stellar match on television with Jay Lethal…but then failed to show up for the big rematch on iPPV and seemed to have been relegated back to his perpetual midcard slot. However, apparently he has worked his way back into ROH/SBG’s good books as he was one of the first guys booked to face Alberto during his stint on the Winter Warriors tour in ROH. The former Alberto Del Rio delivered an impressive debut win on TV against Christopher Daniels…but seemed to struggle whenever the Fallen Angel quickened the pace against him. How, then, will he cope with someone who possesses the kind of speed and agility that ACH does? Since Alberto is now on the hunt for Jay Lethal and the TV Title, he knows that beating a guy who pushed Lethal to the limit in a 30-minute draw would be a hell of a way to earn a title shot.

First blood goes to a pumped up ACH, who grapples the lucha legend into the ropes. El Patron isn’t disturbed at all though and quickly knocks the smaller man straight out of the ring with a tackle. He also shows his proficiency as a striker as he knocks ACH all over the ring. Just as in the Daniels match though, as soon as ACH speeds things up The Boss starts to struggle – soon eating a back suplex after failing to lay a hand on him as he flips around the ring. ACH misses a pescado to the floor though, and Alberto levels him with a STEPPING ENZIGURI OFF THE APRON! He then whips ACH into the guardrails with such force that he almost snaps in half! With his opponent now sufficiently slowed, AEP is able to start work on the arm – and does so by breaking out the hanging armbar in the corner. An error comes soon afterwards though. He tries to enter ACH’s territory by coming off the top rope and sails straight into a dropkick from his plucky adversary. ACH hits a headscissors with such force that he sends El Patron outside…and when Alberto tries to dodge the pescado for a second time he is prepared and sprints across the apron into a soccer punt. Patron has to act fast to suppress this resistance, lifting him into a tilta-whirl backbreaker then stomping the life out of him. But ACH simply refuses to stay down and pops up again with a satellite DDT for 2. HEADBUTTS TO THE NECK! INVERTED SUPERPLEX BY EL PATRON! And just when he looks set to finish things with the Armbar ACH dodges him again and flies off the top into a double stomp. ARMBREAKER! SUPERKICK! ACH fights back to knock Alberto out of the ring. RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Best 450 Splash ever misses…ARMBAR…COUNTERED TO THE HERO’S GRIP! FOR 2! 450 SPLASH BLOCKED WITH KNEES TO THE ARM! ARMBAR! ACH TAPS! AEP wins at 15:05

Rating – **** – I am really digging Alberto in ROH thus far. The amount he was reportedly getting paid per appearance was pretty eye watering, but he is undeniably working extremely hard for his money. His match with Daniels was great for watching two experienced veterans effortlessly work a main event with consummate ease. This was great because it took two guys who are stylistically very different, yet they meshed together brilliantly. ACH deserves a lot of credit. He wouldn’t necessarily have been used to working with guys the size of Alberto, let alone guys who work the rather strange lucha/WWE hybrid style that he does. The story was pretty much perfect, with ACH showing heart, determination, courage…but only really getting any kind of advantage when he was able to use his speed against the bigger, slower and older opponent. Alberto looked to use his power and striking to dominate and did so for long periods – but didn’t reckon on the amazing resilience of ACH who very nearly pulled off an unlikely win before leaving his arm vulnerable to Alberto’s signature hold. It was actually a lack of time which meant I held off going higher on my rating here. The story was sound and the individual performances of both competitors was excellent. But they were hampered by only getting fifteen minutes, and the match LOOKED as if it was being smushed down to fit into a Road Rage TV slot (which it was). They didn’t have enough time to let big moments breathe, or to sell the real key points of their story properly. We didn’t get enough time to really empathise with ACH as he was bullied by the bigger man. Everything was too hurried, ACH’s comebacks were too rushed etc. It is a real shame that even at a house show/live event ROH couldn’t find them another five minutes to do this thing properly.

Jay Lethal vs Roderick Strong – ROH TV Title Match
Since the scheduled main event wound up opening the show, the Television Title is bumped up into the headline slot which will no doubt delight the champion, who believes his belt is the most prestigious. Lethal has held the belt since Supercard Of Honor 8 and is hot after surviving the challenge of Matt Sydal at Final Battle. He has another former WWE superstar (Alberto) in his sights for the next pay-per-view too…and in doing so may be overlooking the sternest test of his reign so far. Strong is the man that ended his first run with the TV Championship (at Showdown In The Sun weekend in 2012), and is still one of only two triple crown champions in company history. He’s also another one of Truth Martini’s former clients, and was at the centre of the House Of Truth when he rose to the very top of the promotion by becoming World Champion in 2010. With all eyes on Las Vegas, will Mr ROH swoop in under the radar and regain gold in a year that he has promised he will dominate?

The first thing Roderick does is cartwheel into a pinning combination…which of course annoys Lethal so much he instantly breaks out his hiptoss/dropkick combo. An early Death By Roderick attempt is blocked, but Jay is unable to prevent the challenger from hitting a cradle backbreaker. Truth Martini springs into action and distracts Strong before he is able to inflict more damage on the spine. Instead it’s Lethal injuring the back by repeatedly smashing Roddy into the guardrails with his rolling tope sequence. He controls proceedings for several minutes, slowing the pace and grinding on the neck. That is before the signature ‘gear switching’ and striking of his opponent comes to the fore. From nowhere Strong explodes into a vicious dropkick, and even finds time to dish out a running boot to the HOT bodyguard J. Diesel too. Still he can’t hit Death By Roderick though – as Jay counters in mid-air to a hurricanrana. Knee strike dodged…into the LETHAL COMBINATION! Koji Clutch grinds on the neck again! Jumping knee blocks the Lethal Injection…only for Martini to hop onto the apron just as Strong seems set to execute End Of Heartache. BJ Whitmer runs in to drop his former team-mate with an EXPLODER ’98 ON THE FLOOR! Todd Sinclair orders the bell to be rung at 09:55, apparently to signify a disqualification. Strong is irate and bates Lethal back into the ring for a restart. LETHAL INJECTION COUNTERED WITH A CRADLE BACKBREAKER! He’s too injured to hit the Gibson Driver though, enabling the champ to score with a standing Lethal Injection for 2. Hail To The King thwarted with a big superplex, although it does almost as much damage to Roddy as it does to Lethal. Jay tries to counter the Death By Roderick with a rana again…but this time Strong COUNTERS TO THE STRONGHOLD! Great spot, but too close to the ropes to force a victory. HAIL TO THE KING for 2! LETHAL INJECTION…COUNTERED TO THE SICK KICK! TWO COUNT! SUPERKICK FLURRY BY JAY! LETHAL INJECTION! He retains at 15:38 (total time).

Rating – **** – This was an absolute blast as a main event. It may have been overbooked, but it made for a seriously hot headline bout. The crowd were far more into this than anything else on the entire card. These guys have had some pretty tepid matches in the past, making this one comfortably my favourite encounter between them. Lethal is such a natural fit for the House Of Truth and has grown so much since regaining the TV Title last year. He carries himself with a poise and presence of a true star meaning that, unlike Matt Taven, he is able to incorporate House Of Truth shenanigans into his matches rather than become defined by them. His subtle but constant attack on Strong’s neck to set up for the Lethal Injection was great. He has developed a natural arrogance to his ring work, which made him the perfect foil for the hard working, ‘Mr ROH’ challenger he faced tonight. This won’t win any MOTY awards, but after a rather frustrating and underwhelming show this was a lot of fun to watch.

Roderick Strong marches straight through the curtain, into the locker room, and into a brawl with BJ Whitmer. Meanwhile in the arena Lethal’s celebrations are interrupted by Alberto El Patron, who chases him away to send a message before the 13th Anniversary Show.

Tape Rating – ** – At several points during this show I could feel myself getting incredibly angry. How on earth could experienced wrestlers like Tommaso Ciampa and Tyson Dux produce such a horrible a match? What the hell was Dru Onyx even doing getting booked in this promotion? Why is the World Title being squandered in another pointless, filler title defence? On the whole there is still plenty to enjoy – from a surprisingly decent Jacobs/TD match, the solid Sydal/Taven encounter, a strong recovery performance from Michael Elgin and two extremely decent main events. But as usual with modern day, Delirious/SBG-led Ring Of Honor, the good stuff is continually dragged down by the mediocre. I really enjoyed Alberto/ACH and was thoroughly entertained by the TV Title Match. But is that enough to justify purchasing this event – even as a VOD? Probably not. Supposedly Nashville and Dearborn were the weakest events of the Winter Warriors Tour, and things really picked up for ROH in 2015 from tomorrow night in Dayton. I hope so, because we’re almost a month in to this supposedly ‘great’ year for Ring Of Honor and I’m still entirely underwhelmed.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jimmy Jacobs vs Tadarius Thomas (***)
2) Alberto El Patron vs ACH (****)
1) Jay Lethal vs Roderick Strong (****)

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