ROH on Sinclair – Episode 043 – 14th July 2012
Prepare yourself for a third consecutive week of Road Rage. ROH ran fresh, post-Best In The World TV tapings on June 29th, so I find it slightly bewildering that we’re still running Road Rage stuff, but I suppose putting results of the last ppv onto TV is in the best interests of the promotion. The matches they’ve hyped for this evening are Elgin/Finlay and Strong/Ciampa/Lethal. Whilst I still don’t advocate giving full ppv matches away for free, those are the two most appropriate matches to put onto the TV at least. Putting Finlay, who still has significant name value with casual fans, onto the show is a big deal, and it’s obvious that the Television Title bout should be spotlighted on the actual show. As usual, all ratings/play-by-play is pulled from my DVD reviews. Commentary comes from Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness in Manhattan, NY’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
Fit Finlay vs Michael Elgin
The Belfast Bruiser made his ROH debut at Border Wars last month in a losing challenge to Roderick Strong and the Television Championship. But he certainly made an impression with his forthright, uncompromising and physical style, and ROH were quick to sign him up for another show. Finlay again faces a member of the House Of Truth – and will want to even up his ROH won/loss record.
Finlay is more than double Michael Elgin’s age by the way. They start tentatively, which makes sense as they are so evenly matched physically. Elgin is obviously psyched up but struggles to match up to the wily veteran in the opening minutes. Finlay continually finds a way to ground the younger man, be it through takedowns or strikes, and completely negates the power advantage of his opponent. He doesn’t seem to be focusing on a specific body part – he seems to be content with wearing the 2011 Survival Of The Fittest winner down. We’re past the five minute mark and Michael is still yet to mount any meaningful offence in the match. Literally every time he gets back to a vertical base and tries to throw strikes at the Irishman Fit effortlessly finds a way to ground him again. As with the previous match, the New York fans are now bored and trying to be funny by starting random retarded chants. Elgin has looked completely outclassed…but finally Finlay makes an error trying a shoulder tackle from the ropes. Elgin catches him and FLATTENS him with a lariat. Even then the veteran has a strategy, quickly rolling out of the ring and waiting for the younger man to chase before clobbering him to the hard floor with a lariat of his own. He dumps Elgin chest-first over the guardrails…then drills him with elbows as he tries to drag himself back into the ring. Credit to Unbreakable though, he lives up to his name by continually getting back to his feet and going back into battle. At last he gets Fit off his feet again, countering a chinlock into a back suplex. Audible ‘boring’ chants now, as Finlay shuts down another comeback attempt by grabbing a single leg takedown. At last Elgin succeeds with something – sending Finlay into the ringpost then battering him with clotheslines in the corner. DEAD LIFT FRONT SLAM (albeit slightly botched) gets 2. Fit easily escapes a Spiral Bomb attempt so Unbreakable tries something desperate and climbs the ropes. The inevitable happens and Finlay shoves him all the way to the floor – injuring his knee in the process. Finlay Roll gets 2, followed by the Air Raid Crash…but still just 2. TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER…Elgin kicks out again! What happened to piledrivers being banned in ROH? Isn’t that a DQ? Elgin comes up and scoops Finlay into the Buckle Bomb. SPIRAL BOMB wins it at 19:15
Rating – *** – I’ll be honest and say this is a slightly generous 3* rating as this wasn’t that great. But I’ll also admit to taking pleasure in giving it a decent rating just to spite some of the idiotic New York fans who seem to think it’s ok to openly disrespect the wrestlers as they work hard to entertain them. Although not a favourite of mine, Finlay is a respected veteran in this sport, a legendary mat technician and at 50+ years old, certainly doesn’t need to work in front of disrespectful pricks like some of the vocal minority in the Hammerstein this afternoon. I liked the story they told, with Finlay using his skill and experience to totally dominate Elgin and stop him using any of his power moves. In the end he made one mistake, allowed Unbreakable to land one sequence of big offensive bombs – and that was enough to see Finlay go 0-2. It was too long, and the use of the piledriver really annoyed me. But the sh*t crowd wasn’t their fault, the fact they had to go on after Cole/O’Reilly wasn’t their fault and this would have seemed a lot better in front of a more respectful audience. It was streets ahead of the butt ugly Strong/Finlay match from last month.
INTERMISSION – Kevin and Nigel can barely suppress their grins as they introduce highlights of the Briscoes vs Headbangers Of Truth encounter which opened the ppv.
Roderick Strong vs Tommaso Ciampa vs Jay Lethal – ROH TV Title Match
There’s a lot of history between these three men, but in reality that’s not the focus here. Sure Ciampa and Lethal have been at odds for most of the year with Tommaso costing Jay the TV Title, then seeing his undefeated streak end at Jay’s hands last month. And of course Lethal wants to get back at Roddy for taking his TV Title. HOWEVER, the real issue here is how much collusion and conspiracy there is between the House Of Truth and The Embassy Ltd. Nana and co. sold Rhino to the HOT earlier in the year, and supposedly part of that deal was that Ciampa wouldn’t challenge Strong. However, since then Tommaso has demanded a shot at the belt, and was given not only this match, but a singles match on TV. That ended when RD Evans and Nana ‘accidentally’ got their man disqualified, further raising suspicious about the nature of the business arrangements between the two factions. Lethal wants his belt back. Tommaso has gone off the deep end and wants both a title and to injury Jay. Roderick supposedly knows of the deal and has been given assurances by Truth that there is something in place to ensure he leaves with the championship.
What the f*ck is going on with Lethal’s hair tonight? Ciampa does a great job of acting like a total whackjob during the introductions. Bobby Cruise just about gets through the formalities before Tommaso charges the ring and launches into an attack on Lethal. The former champ survives that, then heads across the ring to level Roderick with the hiptoss dropkick combo. Tope suicida nailed as Lethal continues to be at the centre of proceedings…and he’s still basking in the success of that when Mia Yim sneaks up on him and blasts him with a superkick. BARE KNEE STRIKES from Ciampa! Roderick basically stood and watched the whole thing, then sneaks in to drop Jay with the Half Nelson Backbreaker for 2. Ciampa hits the electric chair drop STRAIGHT INTO THE OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX FOR 2! Tommaso is nuts, and demonstrates that as he drags Lethal to the canvas, biting and scratching at his face like an animal. Once more it’s Strong who opportunistically swoops and grabs at a chance to beat on a fallen Lethal. Strong and Lethal take it in turns chopping lumps out of Ciampa’s chest before going back to work on each other…and it’s Jay who comes out on top with the Lethal Combination which gets 2. DUELLING SUBMISSIONS from Lethal to both opponents! He then gets another nearfall on Roderick with a pop-up neckbreaker. Tommaso goes to the top ropes…AND HITS THE MACHO ELBOW ON LETHAL! FOR 2! Project Ciampa interrupted with a jumping knee strike from the champion. He takes Ciampa up the ropes and drills him with a superplex. MACHO ELBOW from Lethal! Tommaso kicks out! Martini tries to level Lethal with the Book Of Truth, and gets punched out for his issues. The Embassy run round the ring trying to help Martini…and somehow Nana gets shoved into Tommaso as he sets up for Project Ciampa. Strong counters with a roll-up…and eliminates the Dominant Male at 12:46. Martini blasts Lethal with the Book Of Truth as he sets up for the Lethal Injection. ORANGE CRUSH BACKBREAKER! Strong retains at 13:06
Rating – *** – Really exciting little TV Title Match there. The interventions from the cast of characters on the outside were kept to a tolerable level, whilst the displays of athleticism and violence from the three men actually taking part in the match were allowed to take centre stage. Ciampa was the undeniable star of the show, from his increasingly impressive workrate to his amazing grasp of his new character. Lethal and Strong are experienced pros and held up their end of the deal – but it was Tommaso who emerges with all the credit from this, if not the TV Title (which I still think he should have taken from Jay). Although I gave it the same rating, this was much better and more exciting than the other TV Title 3-way – which saw Lethal defend against Generico and Bennett at Final Battle 2011.
The episode ends with five minutes of clips from the Best In The World main event – including Kyle O’Reilly’s pre-match walkout of Team Ambition and Steen’s post-match anti-NYC rant.
Tape Rating – DUD – I gave the two Nightmare Begins Road Rage episodes the N/A treatment. If I’m honest, had this one not come after two previous weeks of Road Rage this probably would have got N/A too. But three weeks in a row of Road Rage is far too much. Couple that with giving away ppv content away for free again and I’m not happy with the episode. At least the full matches they showed weren’t of great significance, and they definitely kept plenty back from the Steen/Richards highlights to avoid screwing over the paying ppv fanbase again.