ROH on Sinclair – Episode 071 – 26th January 2013
ROH didn’t exactly return to TV for 2013 with a bang last week – but it was certainly a functional and structured return to the airwaves. Final Battle was closed off, and we moved on with several angles for the new year. The Top Prospect Tournament began, giving some of the undercard a chance to shine, alongside Truth Martini’s search for new talent as he tries to rebuild the House Of Truth. Jay Lethal remains a big player in the World Title picture, whilst the Briscoes are looking to dominate the tag division once again, despite a back drop of impressive young teams like C&C, reDRagon and the ever-present threat of the reunited American Wolves. Tonight the TPT continues, and our main event has the TV Title on the line as Adam Cole defends against BJ Whitmer – despite BJ losing at Final Battle, and despite Matt Hardy claiming he is owed a title shot since he beat Cole in December. Once again we join Kevin Kelly and Caleb Seltzer in Baltimore, MD.
The show opens with Nigel McGuinness in the ring with a bunch of security guards. Apparently Jay Lethal and Kevin Steen are to come face to face in an interview segment. Lethal wants to convince Steen (along with the rest of SCUM) that he should get a title shot. His monologue is compelling, and surprisingly uninterrupted by SCUM once Steen silences Steve Corino. After 5+ minutes of Lethal talking basically to himself, Steen simply says ‘I Accept’ – then walks out, much to the annoyance of Corino, Jacobs and Rhino. That wasn’t where I expected this segment to go at all, and as a result I found it surprisingly effective. That’s the second week in a row Lethal has surprised me with his in-ring promo work.
Silas Young vs Adam Page
This is the second bout in the Top Prospect Tournament. We saw QT Marshall advance to the semi-finals a week ago, and now we see two more talents vying for the same spot. Page is really young, but has impressed everyone with some solid performances whenever he’s been given the chance to shine. His match with Jay Lethal at Caged Hostility stands out as a particular highlight. It seems odd to talk about his opponent tonight as a ‘top prospect’. Silas has been around on the indies for years, and also had a brief stint with the WWE. But over the last 18 months or so his independent work has been getting rave reviews, and his reward has been an increased number of bookings with ROH. People are still talking about his great match with long-time rival Michael Elgin back at Brew City Beatdown. More recently he delivered two outstanding undercard matches at the first Ring Of Honor live events of 2013. Can he win this tournament and finally nail down the full-time roster spot many feel is overdue?
It’s a bright start from Page, who actually drives his veteran opponent out of the ring with the ferocity of his assault. He gets an early nearfall with an early flying lariat to boot…before he gets too enthusiastic and misses a running boot in the ropes. Young swiftly capitalises with a hanging DDT and takes firm control. As if his veteran instincts weren’t enough Silas also shows off his speed as he bridges under a lariat, then his strength as he easily hoists Adam into a cradle backbreaker for 2. Finlay Roll countered with a powerslam though, so it’s clearly too early to put Page away yet. The youngster dumps Silas out of the ring…FOR A SHOOTING STAR OFF THE APRON! That rocks Young so hard his ass is hanging out of his trunks! Despite that he locks in his trademark submission hold, the Stock Lock (a full nelson from a crossface position) to win at 05:52
Rating – *** – For it’s spot on the card and place in the tournament this was genuinely of a really high quality. Young has been on fire for ROH since he came back onto their radar, and he really delivers the goods in every match. He seems to have an ability to produce the exact performance needed for any given situation. Against Roderick in Dearborn he needed to look aggressive and determined to beat an ROH veteran. At Defy Or Deny 2 he worked a spotty little match with Adam Cole to pop a red hot crowd. Tonight, against a really young opponent, he played the craft veteran role to perfection. How he’s not already signed up, but lesser talents like QT Marshall and Mike Mondo (not to mention all the WWE rejects) remain featured members of the roster is a mystery.
When we return from commercials Charlie Haas is interrupting the broadcast with an unscheduled appearance. He is in a surly mood and lays into the fans, management, Nigel McGuinness and more…then turns his attention to a scrawny trainee from the ROH Dojo. The fans hate Haas so much they are literally bombarding him with toilet paper. The kid is, of course, the guy affectionately known as Cheeseburger…and Haas quickly murders him.
Rhett Titus vs Matt Hardy
Hardy feels that he should be involved in the match Rhett’s partner got at these tapings. After defeating Adam Cole at Final Battle, Matt thinks he should be getting the TV Title shot, not BJ Whitmer. Instead of facing Cole this evening, Hardy will have to satisfy himself with a match against Rhett Titus. A win over an ROH mainstay like Rhett won’t do his petitioning for a title shot any harm whatsoever.
Alarmingly, Titus appears to have added taped ribs to his lengthy injury list. Hardy tries to mock that by gesturing to his own midsection – but only succeeds in looking like a hungry fatty rubbing his belly. Titus is struggling to get off the deck to execute a basic leapfrog…then inexplicably tries a flying crossbody, which isn’t a spot he does normally let alone when he has busted ribs. He compounds the stupidity by attempting (and missing) a pescado too. His ribs are obviously a big issue now, with Hardy taking immediate advantage to deliver a sidewalk slam for 2. Rhett does manage to get some height on a dropkick, and follows up with a slow motion IED then a Rydien bomb for a nearfall. They botch something, but Hardy’s experience comes into play as he saves the spot to deliver the Side Effect. He spears Titus into the ringpost, and splatters him on the floor with a Mark Henry-style powerslam. Twist Of Fate nailed…and Hardy gets another win at 06:29
Rating – DUD – That was atrocious. I’m not even going to try and look for positives, it was a total car crash. Both wrestlers are shadows of their former selves and it was pretty sad watching them waddle, limp and clumsily stumble through this sham of a match. Titus trying crossbody blocks and pescados on bad ribs, when he doesn’t use those spots in a normal match, was unbelievably retarded too. This was an embarrassing waste of TV time. Hardy, Haas and Titus are possibly my three least favourite workers in ROH, so bringing two of the three together in one match was never going to make for great viewing. Watching a rotund Matt Hardy, at the age of 38, fighting for the secondary title of what is, at best, the third tier promotion in the United States is a sorry state of affairs for all concerned.
Adam Cole vs BJ Whitmer – ROH TV Title Match
As this was taped before the Dearborn/Milwaukee double shot, this was actually BJ’s first match after the horrifying neck bump through a table he took at Final Battle. Despite being short on wins since he returned to ROH, Nigel awarded Whitmer with this championship opportunity as a reward for his fighting spirit and tenacious attitude – much to the annoyance of other athletes who felt they deserved the spot over him. BJ is under pressure to deliver a strong challenge to Cole therefore.
It starts as a straight wrestling match, which obviously doesn’t favour Cole as the smaller and less-experienced athlete. Whitmer quickly traps him on the canvas and tries to open up a weakness on the left arm. Matt Hardy arrives on commentary, perhaps looking to ruin another portion of the show. As he does so Adam manages to quicken the pace and knock BJ off his feet for the first time. Cole shows his determination to retain the belt too, jumping into a neckbreaker – targeting the injuries Whitmer sustained at Final Battle. He follows that up with an enziguri right across the back of the neck as well. It’s not going all the champ’s way though, as he misses a Superfly Splash and hands the initiative back to the challenger. When we return from commercials we see Cole foolishly getting embroiled in a slug-out with the bigger man, before wisely getting out of it by going back to the neck again with a Shining Wizard. BJ retaliates with the fisherman neckbreaker combo…but comes up holding his neck after Cole kicks out. Exploder suplex nailed for another nearfall! But Whitmer takes one risk too many by hitting a big superplex and immediately collapsing on the mat in pain. Todd Sinclair restrains Cole as Whitmer tries to recover…but Whitmer refuses to let him stop the match. GERMAN SUPLEX! CRADLEBREAKER! 2-COUNT! FLORIDA KEY! Cole retains at 08:14 (shown)
Rating – *** – I thought this was very much a scaled down version of the Cole/Jacobs match everyone loved from The Hunt For Gold. On the one hand you had a respected ROH veteran rolling back the years to deliver a signature performance, and on the other you had the young and talented Cole stepping up his game to meet them. Obviously as this was for television they didn’t get the time allocation to produce something as special as Adam and Jimmy did in Dearborn, but I thought this was a consistently entertaining match which built to a tremendously exciting finish. Those last few seconds, with BJ refusing to quit only to be roundly decimated by Cole is what ROH should be all about – great wrestling and finishes which make both workers look like a million bucks.
The show ends with Adam Cole and Matt Hardy staring down across the arena.
NEXT WEEK – A #1 Contendership Tag Gauntlet Match will headline…
Tape Rating – ** – Most of this show was pretty good. The Lethal/Steen segment delivered way above my expectations, and there were two solid 3* matches to enjoy. Cole/Whitmer in particular, for a free match, wasn’t at all bad. Unfortunately between all the good stuff was the Haas/Cheeseburger segment and the Hardy/Titus match, and both of those sucked ass. The stuff with Haas and Cheeseburger got some real play amongst the ROH fanbase…but I’m afraid I just don’t get it. I don’t find Haas entertaining and I certainly have no interest in seeing him interact with a little student who has got to weigh less than 120 lbs. In the end this probably goes down as another solid building episode, but little more. If you like Charlie Haas, Cheeseburger, Rhett Titus or Matt Hardy more than I do you’ll probably have enjoyed this episode more than I did.