ROH Best In The World 6/26/2011

ROH 286 – Best In The World 2011 – 26th June 2011

Although the Sinclair buyout was announced before the Supercard Of Honor 6, the SBG era officially begins tonight. A press conference took place in the build-up to this iPPV which revealed a new ROH logo, outlined plans for new TV tapings and produced a list of markets the show would be airing in – along with a plan to bring live shows to new towns and cities in conjunction with the televised product. There are plenty of changes and exciting opportunities on the horizon, but before we even get to August and the first set of TV tapings in Chicago we have the small matter of this huge pay-per-view event…featuring the World Title Match every Ring Of Honor fan has been waiting to see as Eddie Edwards defends the belt against his American Wolves tag team partner Davey Richards. The promotion returns to the Hammerstein Ballroom tonight (I think for the first time since 2009), and that means they need much more than just a strong main event to shift tickets…and the rest of the card is impressive. Four of the best teams in the tag division clash for the Tag Titles and Christopher Daniels defends the reactivated Television Title against El Generico meaning all the titles are on the line. There’s plenty of fresh talent coming in as Jay Lethal and GenerationMe make their returns and Rhino arrives for an intriguing debut as part of The Embassy. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s an ominous, Mr Wrestling-shaped spectre hanging over the Corino/Elgin showdown. This broadcasts from Manhattan, NY. Dave Prazak returns to commentary alongside Kevin Kelly.

GenerationMe vs Adam Cole/Kyle O’Reilly
This was actually a dark match that took place before the iPPV went on the air. At this point the Bucks were still contracted to TNA meaning they couldn’t legally appear on a rival promotion’s pay-per-view presentation. Amusingly they were a late addition to the card, and one which meant a scheduled grudge match between Future Shock and the Bravado Brothers was bumped…and the Bravados were removed from the show altogether, much to their dismay.

There are loud ‘Young Bucks’ chants from the bell, although they are still billed as GenMe for the moment. Cole and O’Reilly overwhelm Jeremy with some kick combos and soon have the ring clear. Max stops Kyle hitting the apron missile dropkick…so Cole takes him out with a tope suicida! MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON NAILED! Jeremy then sweeps Cole’s legs to allow Max to hit a dropkick through the ropes to the floor. Ocean cyclone backbreaker gets the Bucks a 2. GenMe start using the rapid-fire tags strategy that they’re well known for to isolate Cole…until Adam unleashes a kung fu movie-esque series of escapes and makes the hot tag. O’Reilly comes in with a barrage of kicks then the DOUBLE dragon screw to take them both down! Rolling Butterflies into an ELEVATED DOUBLE ARM DDT/OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX COMBO FOR 2! Jeremy had to dive in to save his brother there. Max lands the tumbleweed Ace crusher on O’Reilly…as Jeremy smashes Cole off the apron with a superkick. Slingshot facecrusher…INTO THE MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! 450 SPLASH BY MAX GETS 2! More Bang For Your Buck us blocked though…and Jeremy inadvertently knees Max in the face! SUPERKICK/BRAINBUSTER COMBO BY FUTURE SHOCK! STEREO GUILLOTINE CHOKES! They look to have the match won until the Bravado Brothers, still pissed off at not being booked, storm the ring and attack everyone. That’s a no-contest ruling at 07:12

Rating – *** – Throw a finish on that and we’d be talking an easy 4*…although I actually liked the Bravado run-in as it made sense and really furthers their character as completely clueless morons. The promo they cut on the Video Wire whilst playing croquet was brilliant from a comedic and a dramatic perspective and them disrupting what was a thrilling little spotfest was totally logical and entertaining in it’s own way. I think the Bucks have since said that it was the crazy reaction of the fans in attendance at this show that convinced them they were ready to leave TNA and return to the independent scene (although I’d imagine their notorious failed WWE try-out was probably more influential in that regard – they had nowhere else to go!).

Cole and O’Reilly knock Lancelot out again…as GenMe hit More Bang For Your Buck on Harlem.

Colt Cabana vs Tommaso Ciampa
The Embassy and Cabana go way back, so it’s no surprise that Colt was quick to sign up for a match with Prince Nana’s latest ‘project’. He is up against it tonight though as Ciampa has his cast of supporting characters with him meaning Prince Nana and Ernesto Osiris are all circling the ring posing a threat.

Kelly and Prazak sound like they’re commentating on cellphones in outer Mongolia…which is f*cking awful considering how many iPPV’s ROH have run now. Cabana has a sensible strategy coming into this, that being to avoid the punches of Tommaso then bewitch him with the usual European techniques and goofball tactics he’s so proficient at. But he finally does get distracted by Nana and Osiris at ringside, allowing Tommaso to take full advantage by driving a knee to the side of the face. Colt tries a quebrada…COUNTERED TO A MID-AIR GUTBUSTER! Colt is hurt but shakes it off to break the top turnbuckle with a Snake Eyes takedown which noticeably dazes Ciampa. SNAP GERMAN out of the ropes by Tommaso! He goes for another German suplex but it’s countered to the Billy Goat’s Curse. Ciampa actually climbs the ropes to escape that and catches Cabana for PROJECT CIAMPA! The Embassy’s man gets his win at 06:58 and remains undefeated in ROH singles competition

Rating – ** – Although this was the iPPV opener, it was obviously a very different match to the Future Shock/GenMe match and I think the crowd took a while getting into it as a result. Cabana was pretty much in autopilot but I thought Ciampa actually did some cool things. He looked like he’s starting to find his feet in ROH, which has been difficult with no TV and so few live events throw Q2 of 2011.

Mike Bennett vs Jay Lethal
The Prodigy has made a big impact in his time in ROH thus far. Fans hate him and his wrestling style, but after winning the Top Prospect Tournament, pushing Daniels to the limit for TV Title and spending much of the last few months continually outsmarting and beating up the veteran Steve Corino it’s impossible to deny that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He promised to be World Champion by the end of 2011 (although I believe that’s already been downgraded to he promised to be ‘a champion’) so needs to start moving up the card. Tonight he faces a performer he actually respects in Jay Lethal. It’s the first time Jay has been in an ROH ring in years, although he was here years ago first as part of Special K, then as a protégé of Samoa Joe and former Pure Champion. Having recently been released from TNA, Bennett respects Lethal’s ability to be a ‘sports entertainer’ and wants to beat him up so emphatically that Jay starts doing Mike Bennett impressions.

Lethal gets a deafening reaction which I wasn’t expecting. And he keeps popping them through the first minute of the match by mocking Hogan then saluting Randy Savage in quick succession. He hits the hiptoss/dropkick combo for an early 2-count as well. Bennett is struggling to deal with the raucous support Jay is receiving, and is still stalling as Lethal hits a hurricanrana then dives to the floor into a super-smooth tope suicida. It takes an unseen apron backbreaker from Bob Evans to turn the tables, and The Prodigy immediately capitalises with a flying clothesline off the apron! The crowd absolutely HATE that! Bennett stays on the back, first with a stalling suplex then a surfboard. Lethal eventually fights his way free and lands a handspring elbow for 2. He climbs the ropes, and again Brutal Bob gets huge heat for stopping him. Mike climbs and drags the preoccupied Lethal from the top with a superplex for 2. Bennett climbs now, much to the dismay of Bob Evans who thinks he’s taking a risk. FLYING ELBOW MISSES! Lethal to the top rope…RANDY SAVAGE ELBOW DROP! That’s enough to earn Jay Lethal a win in his comeback match at 09:42

Rating – *** – Some of the heat was very cheap, but I thought the very vocal crowd really made this an entertaining spectacle. To me, Jay Lethal was always a decent but slightly unremarkable talent and I really wasn’t bothered when he left for TNA, although I did comment at the start of 2006 (I think at the Tag Wars 2006 event) that I felt he was starting to come into his own and really improve as a worker. So, for all he’s improved in his time in Orlando, I was very surprised at how popular his return was. He got major babyface support, which in turn means Brutal Bob and Mike Bennett became terrific villains. They didn’t try anything too ambitious but it was good, old-fashioned midcard fun. I imagine the New York crowd’s response to Lethal had a real hand in the decision to award him an SBG contract…

Homicide vs Rhino – Street Fight
The Notorious 187 has real problems with The Embassy. He didn’t seem too bothered by them, but after hitting RD Evans with a chair and injuring Ernesto with the Cop Killa he now has an Embassy-funded lawsuit hanging over him and returns to his hometown to face the faction’s new ‘hired bodyguard’, the debuting former ECW Champion, the Man-Beast…Rhino. I was a huge fan of Rhino in the dying ECW days and loved a lot of his early stuff in the WWE…but much of what I saw of him TNA seemed like a guy washed up and well past his prime. I’m still interested to see him in ROH though, and I really hope he’s still got it.

Rhino looks jacked but can’t leave with the initial speed of Homicide as he flies up the aisle in the TOPE CON HILO! Rhino boots him in the stomach…THEN MISSES A PESCADO! The audible gasps of shock from the crowd that he even tried that were fun. Cide takes him to the apron…AND GETS BACK DROPPED THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPER’S TABLE! Rhino extracts a ladder, then almost breaks the guardrail as he charges at Homicide with a knee strike. The former ROH Champion turns the match round by suplexing Rhino onto the ladder as they return to the ring. Not that it slows the Man-Beast down much as he gets right back up and PRESS SLAMS HIM ON THE LADDER! Jumping piledriver scores for 2! Homicide tries a splash but only succeeds in diving into the knees, before Rhino adopts his familiar crouched stance in the corner. He charges…but the Gore is countered with the Ace Crusher for 2! Rhino shakes that off and positions a table in the corner of the ring…then delivers a crushing belly to belly suplex. GORE COUNTERED WITH A SUNSET FLIP! Homicide snatches the unlikely victory at 10:16!

Rating – *** – Some were writing this off as a total car wreck before it even took place, and I’ll hold my hands up and admit that my hopes weren’t high. So my gratitude and appreciation goes to both competitors who looked extremely motivated and produced a great performance. As ROH is about to debut on TV with WGTT, Jay Lethal and the Young Bucks, I’m not sure there’s a spot on the regular roster for Rhino right now without making ROH seem like a promotion full of cast-offs from the promotions they’re trying to market themselves as an alternative to. But he looked good and would make for a welcome replacement to the late Bison Smith (or, for a retro-Embassy reference, how about Abyss?)  in the part-time ‘big-hitter’ role if he’s not too expensive to book.

Prince Nana jumps Homicide…and gets punched out. But Homicide has stopped watching Rhino! GORE THROUGH THE TABLE! Officials and jobbers rush into the ring to offer immediate assistance to Homicide, putting over the Gore as the total death finisher that it should be.

Steve Corino vs Michael Elgin
The King Of Old School has had problems with the House Of Truth for several months. Having championed Chris Daniels as a role model to young wrestlers, he was disgusted when the Fallen Angel turned on the fans and joined Martini’s troops and has had numerous verbal and physical altercations with them ever since. After the HOT lost all three of their matches at Supercard Of Honor 6 Truth set Elgin the task of permanently taking Corino out of ROH…and that’s what he’s here to do tonight. ROH have allowed Jimmy Jacobs, Steve Corino’s ‘sponsor’ and fellow reformed ‘evil person’ to accompany him to ringside. But they turned down Steve’s plea to allow Kevin Steen to come to ringside as well. And that presents a problem since Corino already paid for his ticket…

‘We want Steen’ – New York. Steve Corino wastes no time in introducing him…and the roof nearly blows off the building when Steen appears on the balcony. Genuinely one of the loudest reactions in ROH history. Jim Cornette quickly shows up with security to ensure he’s not allowed to stay but that pop was incredible. In the chaos Truth Martini and Michael Elgin show up and an actual match starts. The melee also means we temporarily lose contact with Kelly and Prazak which really isn’t a great loss. Steve quells Elgin’s initial charge with the Colby Shock but none of his moves seem to be doing much damage to his opponent. Even a Saito suplex keeps him down for only a few seconds. Thumb In The Bum does the trick though…but as Corino goes for a tope ELGIN CATCHES HIM FOR THE OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE ON THE FLOOR! After the Steen appearance, for which they were superb, the crowd really aren’t interested in this and it’s hurting it. They try some ‘funny’ chants and totally ignore Elgin’s dominance until he hops onto the top rope for an elevated Boston crab. Truth Martini tries to interfere, but of course Jimmy Jacobs is at ringside to prevent that…and Corino takes advantage to level Michael with a running knee. TKO by Elgin, then an incredibly powerful brainbuster. But he refuses to cover, obeying Martini’s instruction to injure his opponent, and hoists him up for a powerbomb. BUCKLE BOMB! SPIRAL BOMB! Elgin wins at 08:29

Rating – ** – This was like the best and worst of New York shows in one ten minute period. When they like something they are incredible – as the reception Kevin Steen received shows. But they then totally ignored the match, which is a shame because Elgin was doing some good stuff and Corino was working noticeably harder than he did in his feud with Mike Bennett too. Ultimately I’m glad Elgin got the win (as I criticised him being beaten by Homicide at Supercard Of Honor) and the segment is all about Corino, Jacobs and Steen anyway…

Elgin tries to put a beating on Corino…and of course Jimmy Jacobs is right in there to make the save. Martini lays Jimmy out with the Book Of Truth and the beatdown continues. That is until Kevin Steen comes out through the crowd again to make the save. He no-sells the Book and delivers a brutal superkick to Truth Martini…and Corino convinces Jim Cornette that Steen deserves the opportunity to address the fans. He delivers the now-immortal ‘My name is Kevin Steen…and F*CK RING OF HONOR’ line then drops Corino with the Package Piledriver and laughs like a lunatic as security cards him away. Brilliant segment which the crowd give an audible standing ovation to.

Christopher Daniels vs El Generico – ROH TV Title Match
Now it’s been formally announced that Ring Of Honor will be going back on television later this year, they are safe to reactivate the TV Championship – still in the possession of Christopher Daniels. His last defence was against Mike Bennett at Defy Or Deny, so it’s been several months that he’s been carrying the belt round and calling himself the only worthy champion as he’s the only ROH athlete still on television. Tonight Generico (who has issues with the House Of Truth and has a pinfall victory over the Fallen Angel this year) gets the chance to take the belt from him and mean it’s an ROH wrestler, not a TNA one that takes the TV Title into the first ever SBG TV tapings.

Daniels jumps into an attack on Generico straight from the bell. Of course, the luchador retaliates by quickening the pace and rattling off armdrags one after another. They go to the floor where Generico lands a QUEBRADA OFF THE GUARDRAIL! The Fallen Angel tries to make peace with his opponent…but his offer of a handshake is met with a slap to the face. He rakes Generico’s eyes…as I notice Kelly and Prazak are back online and clearly think they’re on Raw as they start rambling about trending on Twitter. Daniels hangs Generico in the ropes, repeatedly snapping his throat over them. That progresses to hanging headscissors holds in the ropes with Todd Sinclair frantically trying to break them up. Cobra clutch applied next – the champion continually making it hard for the challenger to catch his breath it seems. He lands the Arabian press high across Generico’s upper torso and shoulders to do more damage to that effect as we approach 10 minutes. Finally El Generico tips Daniels out of the ring, and of course follows that with the TOPE ATOMICO! Back in the ring he lands the flying crossbody then the Blue Thunder Driver for 2…so Daniels goes after the throat again with the Koji Clutch! Angel’s Wings is blocked…LAST RITES INSTEAD! FOR 2! Generico tries to fight back…only to see his Brainbuster attempt blocked on several occasions. YAKUZA KICK! BRAINBUSTER! DANIELS KICKS OUT! Generico is pulling out the big guns for this one. SOMERSAULT VAN TERMINATOR NAILED! But this time the champion has a hand on the bottom rope as he goes for a pin! Is the 15-minute time limit ditched again? DANIELS URINAGE SLAMS GENERICO OFF THE APRON AND INTO THE GUARDRAILS! He smashes up a camera man on the way with that and the poor guy looks f*cking furious! Inside the ring Daniels puts the TV Title back round his waist and believes he’s got this won by count-out…but Generico beats it! He wearily trudges into another urinage slam…then thinks about the BME reinforced by the belt around his waist. BUT GENERICO GETS THE BOOT UP! YAKUZA KICK! TURNBUCKLE BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! GENERICO WINS! IT’S OVER AT 19:28!

Rating – **** – I’m not sure critics have been that kind to the third coming of Chris Daniels in ROH. I think, from a creative standpoint it’s been a big disappointment…but I will say that his run with the TV Title has been outstanding. He’s had some superb matches for the championship, and this was a really entertaining way for him to bow out of the company in favour of TNA (again). The crowd seemed a little jaded after the Steen stuff (and I presume intermission too) so this took a while to get going, but the way these two pros started slow but seamlessly moved up through the gears was a joy to behold. They had the Hammerstein absolutely rocking by the end. Giving Generico the TV Title is such a popular and sensible move as he’s a wrestler the workrate fans, the sports entertainment fans and even the families with little kids can get behind. Maybe he’s not someone they want as World Champ but he could do some fun stuff with this belt if given the chance…

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Kings Of Wrestling vs All Night Express vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe – ROH Tag Title Match
This one is fought under elimination rules and brings together all four of the major players in the Ring Of Honor tag team division in 2011 for what is sure to be a huge match. We saw the Kings and the All Nights feud earlier this year leading to their match at the 9th Anniversary Show…and the same can be said for the Briscoes and WGTT at the same event. Of course, WGTT and the Kings haven’t liked each other since the day Haas and Benjamin arrived in ROH…and even their heat is dwarfed by the growing hatred between the ANX and the Briscoes as their bloody war continues to escalate. Everyone is looking to win this one and head into the first SBG TV tapings as the champions and flag bearers for the promotion well-established as having the best tag team wrestling in the industry today.

The Kings immediately vacate the ring, thus nominating representatives of the other three teams to decide amongst themselves who got to start. Haas goes all Bret Hart and hands a kid at ringside his hat…prompting a few borderline racist ‘little Jimmy’ chants. He returns to the ring and makes Titus look like a total rookie as he dominates him on the canvas. Titus tries a slingshot but succeeds only in propelling himself into a Haas backbreaker for 2. King tags, and immediately the crowd want to see him work Shelton. They go through some tense exchanges, not necessarily doing that much but using lots of physical charisma to carry the emotion of what they’re going for. Benjamin misses the Dragon Whip but lands on his feet and immediately CATCHES King looking for the Capo Kick. German suplex blocked by Kenny…so Benjamin springs off the ropes into a crossbody for 2! He drags King right into the WGTT corner so they can try to isolate him but the ring is so small that they can’t manage it. Claudio blind tags in to work over the wounded ANX members at 8 minutes. Despite getting beaten up by the Kings, Kenny actually finds time to pick a fight with the Briscoes for good measure. That altercation seemingly inspires him and he makes a key tag back to Rhett. Claudio acts quickly to cut him down with a European uppercut. Apparently Rhett is wrestling with a ruptured eardrum, so like an absolute asshole Castagnoli goes after it right away. Then he feeds Titus to the Briscoes who absolutely POUNCE on him! King sprints across the ring to help his partner, and WGTT get involved in the fight just for kicks.

SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY TITUS! TOP ROPE MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR BY MARK! RUNNING MOONSAULT OVER THE ROPES BY HERO! King is all set to dive too but Claudio catches him on the top rope. SHELTON RUNS UP THE F*CKING ROPES AND SUPERPLEXES BOTH OF THEM!! And before he can even bask in the applause of that the Briscoes fly in and start double teaming him. The next few minutes are dominated by Jay and Mark who, without doing anything fancy, enjoy an extended period of control over Benjamin. The Kings want a piece of that and actually join their hated rivals of last year in working Shelton over as we approach 20 minutes. Hot tag to Haas eventually comes…but ANX are so desperate to get their hands on the Briscoes that Rhett kills his momentum by blind tagging himself and flooring Jay with the Thrust Buster. Urinage by Mark…but Titus no sells it and boots him in the face! Mark pisses King off by hitting Shotgun Knees on Rhett, whilst the Kings have all but vacated ringside to allow everyone else to fight without them. Splash Mountain Neckbreaker puts Kenny down. Titus DUCKS the Doomsday Device…but gets dropped on his neck with a falcon arrow by Jay for 2! King saves his partner with a corkscrew enzi on Mark then SHOTGUN KNEES on Jay! ROYAL FLUSH BACKBREAKER! ONE NIGHT STAND! ANX ELIMINATE THE BRISCOES AT 24:13! That gets a huge (and very mixed) reaction from the crowd, as the Briscoes were a lot of peoples picks to win this after the ‘Day 1’ promo leading into this. Hero and Claudio sneak in and lay in some cheap shots on all four of their remaining opponents…then leave again to leave WGTT and ANX fighting amongst themselves!

Only once the two teams have worn each other down do the Kings think about re-entering the match legally. Claudio works a camel clutch on Benjamin, which is countered into an impressive electric chair drop but Hero is in the ring and on him before Shelton can think about a tag. This is 30 minutes deep now. Shelton levels Castagnoli with the Dragon Whip but as he dives into the tag Hero once again surfaces, this time dragging Charlie off the apron to prevent the tag. Shelton tags King instead! He gets 2 on Hero with a standing moonsault then COUNTERS THE ROLLING FLASH KICK TO A CRADLE SUPLEX! Hero recovers with an elbow smash right to the side of Titus’ head for 2! Riccola Bomb blocked…DOOMSDAY BLOCKBUSTER! But Hagadorn and Del Rey are distracting the referee! LOADED ELBOW ON TITUS! Kings eliminate the All Nights at 34:33! Haas steals the pad from Hero and throws it into the crowd! Hero looks so annoyed about that and smashes him in the face with another elbow strike! Charlie ducks the Suplex Elbow combo and drops Hero with a German suplex in response! Benjamin tagged, and he scores with a Stinger Splash then a second rope bulldog in quick succession. Pop-Up European COUNTERED to a double DDT! Leapfrog Hilo across the back scores for WGTT, and Haas gets a nearfall with the Olympic Slam. Rolling Flash Kick by Hero! Castagnoli tags…UFO ON HAAS! SHELTON SAVES! Big Swing Flash Kick combo nailed but this time it’s Charlie kicking out! KRS-1 blocked and Hero inadvertently knocks Claudio out of the ring! WGTT take advantage of the miscommunication to hit a double spinebuster and win at 40:09!

Rating – **** – At time of broadcast this one got a hugely mixed reception. I thought it was an extremely ambitious match to run on a live iPPV in front of the notoriously unpredictable New York crowd. This is the same crowd that totally crapped on the equally ambitious (and ultimately equally unsuccessful) Aries/Tyler 60-minute draw at Final Battle 2009 remember. It certainly packed in a lot of absolutely exceptional tag team wrestling. The Briscoes weren’t involved a great deal, but when they were the pedigree and quality of their duo was wonderfully demonstrated – everything they did was executed with such purpose and poise that the crowd were eating it up. Honestly, the crowd slowly started dying away from this from the second they were eliminated. When it comes down to it, I think Delirious and Cornette probably gave this one too much time, and made the wrong calls about who got to stick around. I know WGTT and the Kings are big money players – but the Briscoes and ANX are involved in the hottest feud in the tag division right now. By sidelining those two you effectively took out the two most relevant teams (and the two teams who had the most to gain from a strong performance) in favour of giving New York more of Kings/WGTT – which they’ve already seen and which most people are a little bored of by now. It doesn’t help that Haas and Benjamin won’t pick a finisher and stick with it – meaning the constant changes to what they win matches with ALWAYS leaves a crowd feeling flat. Personally I enjoyed this a lot, but it is very much a mission to sit through it. There are scintillating clusters of action throughout, but the way they constantly slowed the pace down and built to them may be a little too much for some people. But on a show titled ‘Best In the World’, this did plenty to showcase what many consider the strongest tag division in wrestling.

The Briscoes return to the ring and lay WGTT out with steel chairs. The Kings perch on the turnbuckles and watch their former enemies lay waste to the reigning Tag Champions. Kenny King and Rhett Titus come out with big sticks and chase both the heel teams away but the damage has already been done. Haas and Benjamin are left requiring medical attention…

Eddie Edwards vs Davey Richards – ROH World Title Match
Davey spent most of 2010 in the hunt for the Ring Of Honor Championship. After Bryan Danielson’s departure in 2009 he had been anointed by the fans as the new ‘best in the world’ and standard bearer for ROH competition. But he never got over the hump and won the big one. As far back as 2009 he pushed Austin Aries to the limit (at Aries vs Richards) and lost. At Death Before Dishonor 8 he pushed Tyler Black to the limit, and lost. And at Final Battle 2010 he delivered another stunning effort, but once again couldn’t win the big one when Roderick Strong defeated him. He ended 2010 vowing that he’d wouldn’t challenge for the ROH Title again until he’d started from the bottom and earned another opportunity…and that’s what he’s spent most of this year doing. But whilst everyone focused on Davey, his tag partner in the American Wolves Eddie Edwards snuck in, cashed in his Survival Of The Fittest-won title shot…and did what Davey couldn’t do when he defeated Roddy Strong at Manhattan Mayhem 4. He was World Champion…and immediately had people wanting to see him fight Davey. Despite some stunning matches (defences vs Chris Daniels and Chris Hero for instance), he has been weighed down by insecurity and a desire to prove that he deserves to be champion, not Davey. Richards though, declined the offer of a title shot. He didn’t want to be the one to step into Eddie’s limelight and end his time in the sun…which immediately pissed Eddie off. He doesn’t agree with Davey’s view of him as the ‘little brother’. He doesn’t like that everyone thinks Davey is the rightful champion…and he has history on his side given that he won the only previous match between the two in the finals of the TV Title Tournament on HDNet last year. Eddie finally got his wish after Supercard Of Honor 5 – when he said he’d quit ROH and step down as champion if Davey wouldn’t agree to fight him here tonight. Davey reluctantly agreed and whilst these two insist they’re still friends, the former ROH Tag Champions could well implode tonight under the weight of their own egos and desires.

They shake hands and hug before the match as a sign of respect but both are clearly all business in front of a crowd which is pretty evenly split. Edwards tries to land a cheap shot chop rather than give Davey a clean break in the ropes…and is rightly chastised for that both by the referee and by a roundhouse kick aimed at his head which he has to block. Both men go for signature submission holds next, neither successfully though. Test of strength next…and it’s even. They trade kicks to the spine – even again! Richards gets the edge with a huge running punt across the chest! As a reward he’s able to lock in the match’s first significant submission hold – forcing Edwards to scramble to the ropes in a Cloverleaf. Eddie quickens the pace and hits a Doi 555 with Dragon Gate-esque speed. That does some obvious damage, halting Davey’s momentum and enabling Edwards to lock in an abdominal stretch to further wear him down. Richards is stuck on the back foot, so has to take a chance to get himself into the contest again. He lifts Edwards all the way to the floor then sprints across the apron into another kick to the chest. TOPE SUICIDA SCORES! Missile dropkick connects with the back of the champ’s neck…then he jerks him out of the corner into a modified Alarm Clock strike for 2. Backpack Stunner COUNTERED TO THE CROSS ARMBREAKER! Eddie blocks that so Davey simply rolls into a Fujiwara armbar instead! Then a Kimura as the submissions just keep coming! The combination of the high risk stuff on the floor and the lethal submissions on the mat have put the challenger in complete command now.

HEADBUTT DUEL ON THE TOP ROPE! DAVEY KICKS EDDIE IN THE FACE! Superplex…ROLLED INTO THE FALCON ARROW ARMBREAKER! EDDIE COUNTERS TO THE ACHILLES LOCK! COUNTERED BACK TO THE CROSS ARMBREAKER! Amazing submission exchange there! Richards looks to have the edge, but he tries one of his signature moves at the wrong time, and sees his attempted Handspring Enzi countered to Edwards’ rear lift facecrusher! ALARM CLOCK COUNTERED TO A FISHERMAN BUSTER FOR 2! Eddie’s ability to counter his own partner’s signature moves has brought him back into things…so the challenger goes right after the arm again. ROLLING ARMBAR! EDDIE STARTS STOMPING ON HIS FACE TO ESCAPE! CROSS ARMBREAKER ANYWAY! EDDIE STOMPS HIS F*CKING FACE AGAIN! Edwards brutally kicks his own partner out of the ring then chases him with a MOONSAULT OFF THE APRON INTO THE CROWD! But, just as that move did during his battles with Christopher Daniels over the TV Title, Eddie seems to have injured his own leg in that. Tiger suplex gets 2 even with a one-legged bridge! Both men are weary…but get back to their feet and start teeing off on each other. Edwards hurts his own leg hitting a flying knee strike to leave both men down! They fight through the ropes…2K1 BOMB ON THE APRON! Eddie’s knee gave way on the way down meaning both guys are totally f*cked on the floor at 20 minutes. Eddie climbs to the top rope…DOUBLE STOMP THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPERS TABLE! Even if he breaks his own leg Edwards is desperate to prove he’s the best wrestler in the team! Davey crawls into the ring so Eddie angrily double stomps him again for 2! But he’s limping badly! Richards catches his leg in the ropes…BUT WON’T CHEAT AND USE THE DRAGON SCREW!

Eddie SCREAMS at him to do it…and starts slapping him! DRAGON SCREW IN THE ROPES! DOUBLE STOMP WHILST EDDIE HANGS THERE DEFENCELESS! ANKLELOCK! Eddie lunges to the ropes but still has to kick his opponent away to break the hold! They go back to the top rope…where Richards pummels Edwards with headbutts until he goes limp! GERMAN SUPERPLEX NAILED! RUNNING HEEL KICK! BRIDGING GERMAN GETS 2! ANKLELOCK AGAIN! COUNTERED TO THE ANKLELOCK BY EDWARDS! DAVEY ROLLS BACK TO HIS OWN ANKLELOCK! Crowd is going nuts for this now, and applauds as Edwards gets to the ropes as it means the match will continue. They spill to the apron again, right in front of the commentators. Davey kicks Eddie…who then ducks meaning he absolutely hammers the ringpost! Both men are limping badly! They climb the ropes like crazy men to get to each other…with Eddie hitting a dragon screw against the turnbuckle! The champion thinks about the super rana but Davey hits the leg to block! TOP ROPE POWERBOMB ATTEMPTED BY DAVEY…AND COUNTERED IN MID-AIR TO A SUPER RANA! Eddie is in kill mode now 2K1 BOMB! INTO THE ACHILLES LOCK! WITH REPEATED HEAD STOMPS! Both men eventually collapse, gasping for air and clutching at their injured legs. BACK DROP DRIVER BY RICHARDS! BACK DROP DRIVER BY EDWARDS! They’re on their knees but still keep throwing forearms! Chops vs Kicks duel…ends with Davey clobbering the champ with a lariat for 2. He tries it again…and this time Eddie kicks out at 1! REPEATED KICKS TO THE HEAD! EDDIE KICKS OUT! SUPERKICK FLURRY! BUZZSAW KICK! HE KICKS OUT AGAIN! Davey pleads with him to stay down! RUNNING KNOCKOUT KICK! NEW CHAMPION! RICHARDS WINS AT 36:01!

Rating – ****1/2 – I can’t quite go to the 5* on my rating with this as I think there were just a couple of noticeable flaws…but overall this was a stand-out MOTYC which we will be talking about in December when it’s time to compile those MOTY lists. It really annoys me when people criticise Davey for not being able to tell a story in his matches – because it’s a criticism which is blatantly wide of the mark. I’ll concede his selling always needs some work, but for creating drama through sheer workrate, skill and physical charisma I really think there are few better than him right now. The journey this took fans on was epic. It started as a respectful, even bout…but as Eddie quickened the pace Davey wouldn’t take the shackles off against his tag team partner and fell behind. Finally Richards did start bringing out some heavy ammunition and got the edge over the champion. At which point Eddie reacted and went into full-on ‘f*ck my own body, I’m going to kill you’ mode. He was ruthless, hitting big spots on the apron, putting Davey through a table and doing whatever it took to win. And that’s why, when that big dragon spot in the ropes spot came along, I was legitimately on the edge of my seat. It was professional wresting at it’s finest as you wondered whether, after 25 minutes of gruelling competition (having been slammed on the apron and stomped through a table) whether Davey would finally cut loose on his friend and deliberately attack his injury to win the title. Honestly, my biggest criticism of this is that it was too long. The story they went for was outstanding, but in the last 5 minutes they’d gone so dramatic and overblown that the crowd were almost as exhausted as the wrestlers. The Davey kicking Eddie into oblivion finish was amazing, but the head dropping, no selling, multiple strike sequence minutes that came before it become slight overkill in my eyes. That wasn’t enough to stop this being a genuinely great match which is completely worth going out of your way to see. They came into this under a lot of pressure to produce a top notch headline bout to kick start the Sinclair era iPPV’s…and they absolutely delivered.

Team Richards, Jim Cornette and Cary Silkin all pour into the ring as both guys lie flat out on the mat with their eyes rolling around in their skulls. Finally the two competitors struggle to their knees and end the match as they began – with a handshake and a hug of respect. Eddie puts the belt around Davey’s waist just as Richards did for him after Manhattan Mayhem 4 (and their TV Title match) as the camera pans round to show just how many people have stayed to applaud. Davey is in floods of tears and cuts a genuinely emotional speech…to the point that Eddie has to grab the mic and stop him putting other people over and take the applause for himself!

Tape Rating – **** – In truth, the match quality on this show wasn’t that great. The three title matches actually saved the show in many ways as the undercard, whilst fun, was full of brief but ultimately insignificant throwaway filler. But one thing ROH can do well is produce shows with that ‘big occasion feel’ when they need to. The returns of GenerationMe and Jay Lethal, the debut of Rhino and the Kevin Steen show all turned what was an underwhelming undercard into something that felt very special even whilst the matches weren’t necessarily stellar. At the top of the card, two big title changes will grab the headlines – and Richards/Edwards II was a show-stealing main event which lived up to all the hype. Eddie is having a career best year, and putting him in with ROH’s most consistent performer over the last 24+ months was always going to lead to a classic, sure to sell ppvs and shift DVD’s in decent numbers. Coming into this I was looking forward to the main event, I was looking forward to the notorious Kevin Steen appearance, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how much the rest of the show captured my imagination. Great night for ROH, and I’m sure the Sinclair guys left New York that evening feeling very positive about their new acquisition.

Top 3 Matches
3) Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Kings Of Wrestling vs All Night Express vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe (****)
2) Christopher Daniels vs El Generico (****)
1) Eddie Edwards vs Davey Richards (****1/2)

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