ROH Gateway To Honor 11/6/2011

ROH 290 – Gateway To Honor – 6th November 2011

Live reports on this show weren’t great, and to be honest, the whole event feels like an afterthought as ROH is in the midst of getting their new TV show off the ground and promoting Final Battle next month. In fact, this is even taped as a special afternoon card the night after a round of TV tapings in Louisville. In fact, the show is so low key nobody even bothered to sanity check the DVD menu screen as it refers to this show as ‘Gateway Of Honor’, whilst general VQ, sound and production quality are all painfully mediocre as well. The one thing this DVD does have going for it is a strong main event with the American Wolves facing the All Night Express. That should be good and, since it’s a TV taping weekend, the full roster is in town so there’s lots more from the likes of WGTT, Jay Lethal, El Generico, TJ Perkins, the Briscoes and more. And since it’s a house show we have Dave Prazak back on commentary as he is quietly shuffled out the back door after being overlooked for TV – much like Lenny Leonard was in 2009. He commentates alongside Kevin Kelly as the budget doesn’t stretch to flying Nigel McGuinness out for anything but TV and iPPV. We’re in Collinsville, IL

Tommaso Ciampa vs Andy Ridge
This is a rematch from the first night of SBG tapings in Chicago last August. That night saw Tommaso easily sweep Right Leg aside on the way to a comfortable victory. Will Ridge do any better a second time – particularly considering we have the full Embassy line-up (including RD Evans and Mia Yim) in the building tonight.

Haha…Ridge hasn’t even finished hopping around the ring like a greenhorn before Ciampa dumps him on his head with a German suplex for the match to start. He pulls the knee pad down and delivers the repeated knee strikes inside the first minute, dropping poor Andy to the floor. Somehow Andy sends Tommaso into the guardrails…but Ciampa almost totally no sells and brutally flings him over the ropes. He tries that slingshot Ace Crusher only for the Dominant Male to counter into a backbreaker for 2. Right Leg blocks a rack bomb and puts a few signature kicks together…only to be jumped from behind by Prince Nana. Delirious sprints to the ring and saves Ridge (this was originally supposed to be Ciampa/Delirious), plants a kiss on Princess Mia and chases Ernesto and Evans away too. Ridge gets a close nearfall after hitting his slingshot cutter second time around. Ciampa has seen enough though, picking Ridge up for Project Ciampa…earning him the win at 06:26

Rating – ** – The actual wrestling content was better in the SBG match, but the entertaining Delirious cameo and hot closing moments mean I’ll give this the same rating. Some kind of corporate contractual stuff prevented Delirious from wrestling Tommaso (despite having already advertised it – you’d think a corporate company would have a legal department to help with that) so sending him out for an appearance was a welcome treat for the St Louis crowd. Ciampa is starting to hit his stride as a cold blooded ass kicker – and Ridge’s body was covered in welts from just 6 minutes working him.

Jay Briscoe vs TJ Perkins
No real reason for this match, but since it’s a house show it’s ok just to chuck a couple of talented guys together like this and see what comes out. Briscoe is preparing for Final Battle when he and his brother get their title shot with WGTT, whilst Perkins is looking to solidify his spot on the roster having earned a contract and regular appearances at the TV tapings.

Interesting strategy to start with, as Jay looks to keep Perkins at arms length in order to stay away from his unique grappling style. TJP tries a dive to the floor instead, and shows adaptability as he catches himself in the ropes when Briscoe steps out of the way. Briscoe’s marauding, physical style starts to win out with the 6-time former Tag Champion starting to seize control and dominate. It’s vital that TJ quickens the pace and he does so by springing to the top into a missile dropkick. Rolling northern lights suplexes nailed…so Jay ELBOWS HIM IN THE FACE! That was an awesome, completely simple response to all the complicated sh*t TJP was throwing at him. And it’s testament to Perkins’ resilience that he absorbs it and fires back with a neckbreaker, meaning Jay has to put him down again with the turnbuckle flatliner. He tries to kick Perkins in the head but finds the boot countered into a sit-out powerbomb for 2. Briscoe scores with a spinebuster, again finding a simple counter to an elaborate dive spot from TJ. But Perkins counters the DVD and hits a German suplex! No sold…boot by Jay! JAY DRILLER NAILED! That gives Briscoe the victory in 08:43

Rating – *** – This was a clash of styles which really played out well. I feel like Briscoe could have worked a ‘TJP-style’ match if he wanted, but he’s an experienced guy now and had confidence in his ability to mesh his brawling, physical stuff with some of the intricate mat-wrestling and strike sequences Perkins likes to do. In the end it was actually his uncomplicated physicality that won out over the complexities of TJP’s work

Bravado Brothers vs Steve Corino/Jimmy Jacobs
It makes perfect sense to book this match. Corino and Jacobs want to earn redemption and help young talent improve without going down the same ‘evil’ path they’ve been down in their careers. A fine example of promising up and comers who could go down the wrong road would be Lancelot and Harlem Bravado. They have one lots of plaudits for their improving wrestling and their entertaining characters – but lately they’ve been cheating to win, pissing off live crowds, showing up at events they’re not booked for etc. Steve and Jimmy will want to help set them straight in this one.

Harlem outwrestles Corino in the first 30 seconds and his goofy celebratory smile is enough to warm your heart. His overly cocky self-commentary is particularly amusing too…as is Lancelot’s new goatee which makes him look like a porn star. He puts Jacobs in a sleeper hold…to which Jimmy fakes being choked completely unconscious in order to lure Lance into a multi-rev headscissors. The Bravados get into an inexplicable fight with Todd Sinclair…then Todd joins forces with Jacobs and Corino to hit an inadvertent treble clothesline spot! They recover and attempt to isolate Jimmy from his partner, and again have me in stitches as Harlem keeps telling Lance to ‘watch out for Todd’ from the apron. Jacobs makes the tag to Corino who lays the pair of them out with the Colby Shock/DDT combo. STEREO Thumbs In Bums by Jimmy and Steve, who don’t seem remotely concerned about falling off the wagon this evening. Lancelot ducks the Eternal Dream and joins with his brother to hit the Gentleman’s Approach for 2! Spear from Jacobs to block the Back Suplex Neckbreaker! Contra Code/Eternal Dream sequence on Harlem gets Corino and Jacobs a win at 08:46

Rating – ** – Total house-show filler, and I wasn’t big on Jimmy and Corino not selling their ‘staying on the wagon’ gimmick at all but some of it had me laughing out loud in my living room so it can’t have been all bad.

Michael Elgin vs Grizzly Redwood
As we saw on TV last night, Unbreakable Michael Elgin a dominant powerhouse, but one who is undermined by demons from his past and self-confidence issues which makes him a prime target for the manipulation and mind games of Truth Martini. He earned a morale-boosting win over Shiloh Jonze on TV and will want to follow it up with a comfortable victory over the Littlest Lumberjack.

Redwood’s beard is undeniably superb. He tries to do the ‘chop them down’ routine but Elgin’s legs are so thick he acts like he doesn’t even feel it and shunts him across the ring with a shoulder block. Grizz tries a Heat Seeking Missile…and is caught for a BODY SLAM INTO THE GUARDRAIL! Back in the ring he gets 2 with a sit-out chokeslam. But Elgin is getting too cocky, and tries to hold a stalling vertical suplex for way too long which allows Grizzly to counter it to a sleeper. COUNTERED TO A NECKBREAKER! Redwood propels Michael into the turnbuckles with a flying headscissors though…and tries a Dan Maff-style cannonball senton. That gets caught, but Redwood counters the Spiral Bomb into a facecrusher. He tries another high flying move but just doesn’t have the weight to knock Elgin off his feet, meaning he gets caught in a swinging sidewalk slam for 2. Samoan Crab wins it for Elgin at 07:36

Rating – ** – Like the Bravados tag we just saw, this was pointless filler, but you couldn’t fault the guys in the ring for working hard and trying to turn a nothing situation into something decent. Some of the cat and mouse, big man vs little man spots they worked here were absolutely superb. Grizzly is so underrated in terms of his ability to hit his spots clean and make his opponents look good and he made Elgin look great, without burying himself this evening.

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Future Shock – ROH Tag Title Match
This is the title shot Cole and O’Reilly earned by winning the Contenders Lottery tournament at Tag Team Turmoil in July. These two teams have met before – with Shock pushing WGTT to the limit in a surprisingly competive match during the Revolution weekend. Many call their tournament win in Richmond the breakthrough moment in the careers of Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly, so can they follow that up by shocking the world and ruining the Final Battle 2011 Tag Title Match by taking the belts from Haas and Benjamin on a house show in St Louis?

Shelton comes in with his ribs taped, apparently having been the victim of another Briscoes attack at the TV tapings the previous evening. Cole starts with Haas and is roundly schooled on the mat for most of the opening minute. O’Reilly springs in next, and Charlie actually refuses to tag his partner because of the injury he’s carrying. Benjamin isn’t happy and Haas does finally concede that he might need his partner to retain the belts this evening…so tags him in. With a single shot to the ribs Kyle is able to force Shelton into the ropes gasping for air. He goes for a cross armbreaker next, which works the arm and puts his legs right across Benjamin’s ribcage to boot! Big kick next and Shelton actually has to flee the ring! Great work from Kyle O’Reilly, and it’s made it seem like the titles are actually in jeopardy. Next Benjamin tries a bridging northern lights suplex on Cole…but can’t hold the bridge due to his injury and Adam pounces on it to deliver repeated midsection stomps. O’Reilly tags to hit a backbreaker then apply a grounded bodyscissors as the assault continues. Finally Benjamin manages to tag out and he lies flat out on the apron to recover – meaning Charlie is going to have to go it alone for the time being. He extracts some revenge for his partner by levelling Kyle with a backbreaker and appearing to target the Team Richards member’s ribs in return!

Benjamin has recovered enough to return to action, tagging in to hit Kyle with repeated ribbreakers. O’Reilly kicks at his ribs…only for Shelton to return fire with a big boot to the chest which forces both of them to drop to their knees! Abdominal stretch applied by Haas, forcing Kyle to scream in pain in front of his adopted hometown fans…with Benjamin tagging back and switching to a bearhug instead. O’Reilly punts Benjamin in the ribs again and gets a critical tag to Adam Cole! Haas tries to save his partner only for Cole to send him out of the ring with a rana. COLE HITS THE FLYING CROSSBODY OFF THE TOP TO THE FLOOR! He goes up again an hits a missile dropkick TO SHELTON’S RIBS! Shelton is f*cked and even Charlie can’t help as he gets wiped out with a pescado from Cole. REPEATED RIB SHOTS BY O’REILLY! But Shelton retaliates by kneeing Kyle in the stomach! FRONT CHOKE BY KYLE! And of course, that’s with legs wrapped around those ribs again! Charlie tries to save but Adam traps him in the same hold…until the power of WGTT becomes too much. DUELLING ROLLING GERMANS! COUNTERED BACK TO STEREO FRONT CHOKES! Kyle and Shelton just collapse holding their ribs…with Benjamin up first to help his partner hit the catapult Samoan drop combo move. They hoist O’Reilly up for the huge double powerbomb…but Benjamin collapses holding his ribs in pain! HAAS OF PAIN! Kyle is done at 19:32

Rating – **** – F*ck the haters, I thought this was a great match. WGTT get a lot of criticism and, when it’s right to do so, I’ll happily criticise them. Their performances at Tag Team Turmoil/No Escape weekend weren’t good enough and I called them on it. Their constant switching up of finishers is hurting their matches and I’ve called them on it. Their Revolution: Canada match with the Briscoes suffered because they weren’t working hard enough – and again, I called them on it. But I thought this was an enthralling tag team battle with absolutely superb psychology. Both Shelton and Kyle did phenomenal jobs selling their respective rib injuries all the way through to the finish…and even if they did botch that powerbomb finish – I actually preferred it as it gave Shelton another chance to sell the ribs and the Haas Of Pain is more over as a finisher anyway. Completely under-rated match in my opinion – which a lot of people have missed in their desperation to slam WGTT no matter what.

Mia Yim vs MsChif
A rare outing for the depleted Women Of Honor division here. Daizee Haze has vanished off the face of the earth since Honor Takes Center Stage weekend, whilst Sara Del Rey was unceremoniously dumped from the roster (seriously, nobody told her, she just found out when she was cut from the ROH roster page on the website) after the Kings left in August. That leaves Princess Mia of The Embassy as the only active female on the roster, and this is actually her first ROH match. I think it’s the first time we’ve seen MsChif since she worked a brief storyline with Daizee and Sara on HDNet leaving to the Del Rey/MsChif pisstake of a match at the 9th Anniversary Show. Will these two talented women resurrect the Women Of Honor division with a strong showing tonight?

MsChif is a veteran and in her home market, so it’s no surprise that she starts successfully – dropping Mia with a backbreaker, then a gutbuster just moments later. Yim is supposedly renowned for her kicks, and after a few measly looking body shots she shows why as she lands a big jumping enzi strike. Horrible Yakuza kick follows it, which ends up so far away from MsChif you can see clear daylight on DVD and it’s rightly boo’d by the live crowd. Desecrator countered to a German by Mia, and she gets 2 with another running kick. Yim goes to the top but MISSES a Spiral Tap and gets caught up in the Desecrator by MsChif. That’s the finish, and MsChif gets a victory at 04:45

Rating – DUD – This was awful. Neither looked like they could hit anything clean to save their lives…and Mia seems to have built a whole gimmick around her kicks, despite the fact they looked nothing short of atrocious here. Hopefully it was just an off night, but you can see why ROH officials weren’t rushing to recreate a Women Of Honor division after this effort…

Jay Lethal vs Mark Briscoe
This will be fought under Proving Ground rules, meaning if Briscoe can win or take Lethal to the time limit he’ll earn himself a TV Title shot in the coming months. That’s pretty much all I have to hype this one. Jay has made it known he wants top competition to fight him for the belt, and is thus far undefeated in singles matches since his return.

Mark goes straight for a pinning combination and nearly beats the champion in the first few seconds. Jay recovers well from the shock of that, taking Briscoe to the apron with a hurricanrana then nailing a springboard dropkick to send him to the floor. Tope suicida scores right after that too, putting the TV Champion at quite an advantage in the early going. Hiptoss dropkick combo gets him his first significant nearfall of the contest at the 3-minute mark. Lethal Injection blocked though, since it’s way too early…and Briscoe crotches him on the top rope. Now the match becomes a brawl, obviously turning it in the favour of Mark who takes great pleasure in repeatedly hurling Lethal into the rails. Back in the ring he peppers Jay with crossfaces, eye rakes and punches…to the extent that even when Lethal connects with a handspring elbow he stays down on the mat holding his head and struggling to get his bearings. The TV Champion engages Briscoe in an ill-advised fist fight, but it ends up well for him as hits the Handspring Cutter (also called the Lethal Injection it seems) for 2. Thus far I have that gutbuster/faceplant combo, his top rope elbow and now that move as Lethal Injections! Mark is so crazy he starts headbutting the turnbuckles to fire himself up, and spins around to drop Lethal with the urinage for 2. There is a little kid in the crowd who sounds like they are in tears every time Briscoe is beating Lethal up by the way. He tries one handspring move too many and nearly catapults himself into the Cut-Throat Driver. Countered to the ORIGINAL Lethal Injection. Lethal Injection #2 (aka the Macho Elbow) wins it for Jay at 11:16

Rating – ** – I’d classify this as a disappointment. They never got out of second gear and the whole match meandered along as a slightly banal exchange of spots without any real purpose. Some of it worked well (like Mark using brawling because Lethal was out-wrestling him) but that was short lived and it petered out into underwhelming house show mediocrity.

Mike Bennett vs El Generico
Billed as a ‘first time ever’ bout, this one will also serve as a top contenders match to Jay Lethal and the Television Championship. Generico is still waiting for his rematch after losing the belt to Lethal on Episode 2 of the Sinclair show, whilst Bennett is also campaigning for a rematch after going to a time limit draw with Lethal on Episode 5 (although he claims he won and was screwed by bad officiating).

The first thing Bennett does is pull at the mask, insulting and annoying Generico in equal measure. But he’s not stupid and seems well aware he needs to keep the pace as slow as possible. As soon as he does allow Generico to quicken things the former Tag and TV Champion easily hits that armdrag flurry he’s well-known for. Mounted Hispanic punches in the corner next…followed by a jumping heel kick for 2. It takes the intervention of Bob Evans to turn the tide, as he trips Generico allowing Bennett to start beating him up against the guardrails. As expected, Bennett slows it right down as he starts establishing control and, as ever, Brutal Bob is still lurking to lay in a few cheapshots whenever the ref’s back is turned too. TOPE ATOMICO OUT OF NOWHERE! That spot looked far more brutal than I think it was intended to be for this, the most B-level of B-show. Yakuza Kick countered with a TKO though, shutting the comeback down as quickly as it started! Bennett follows that with a spinebuster and gets another close 2-count. Frustration showing, he hammers Generico with punches, then foolishly turns his back as Generico levels him with the Yakuza Kick! BRAINBUSTER GETS 2! Once again Bob Evans distracts Generico…but he still counters the Box Office Smash into another Brainbuster. That’s enough and this time Generico does get the victory. 11:56 is the time

Rating – *** – I was hoping this might finally be the match where Bennett delivered a 4* performance to go with his terrific character and ability to draw reaction from live crowds. Generico is such a natural babyface and, whether it’s the “wrong type of heat” or not, Bennett is over as a heel so these guys seemed like natural opponents. Sadly, much as with the rest of the show, they were in house show mode the whole time. It was still good, and told a logical story with Bennett cheating and working a slow pace to counteract the speed, athleticism and resilience of his opponent. Honestly I feel like the wrong guy went over as well. I know El Generico is popular – but Bennett looks like a fool right now. He’s losing way more than he’s winning, he voluntarily declined a chance to win the TV Title on television, and is just 2 months away from failing to deliver on his promise to be World Champion by the end of 2011 – although we can already see that isn’t happening. He needs a break, and Generico is over regardless. Missed opportunity in my eyes…

Generico gives Bob Evans the Yakuza Kick for good measure…but that means he has his back turned to The Prodigy allowing Bennett to swoop and lay him out with the Box Office Smash.

All Night Express vs American Wolves
There isn’t a lot of storyline behind this. It’s pretty much a shameless ‘big match’ to sell tickets to what is an otherwise unremarkable line-up. It is, however, the first time Davey has wrestled for ROH in his adopted hometown of St Louis since winning the World Title so it’s a homecoming for him of sorts. And after going 2-0 at Tag Team Turmoil/No Escape weekend, the Wolves be attempting to win a third straight match even against the backdrop of their looming World Championship showdown at Final Battle 2011. For ANX this one serves as preparation. They are looking to test themselves and ensure they are at the top of their game ready for Glory By Honor when they challenge WGTT for the Tag Titles.

King and Edwards start, throwing out armdrags and scooting through an entertaining, albeit slightly contrived, near miss kick sequence. Titus makes the odd decision to try and engage Richards in a grounded wrestling match…and his attempt at a cross armbreaker is easily countered by Davey. The World Champion does the old Bryan Danielson trick of stomping the legs out of a Mexican surfboard position…and Titus doesn’t like the arrogance and ease with which he is being treated right now. He slaps Richards in the face, then floors him with an impressive knee strike! ANX try to double team Davey…but see that counteracted with stereo kicks then stereo topes from the Wolves. Eddie chops Rhett so hard he can’t actually stand up anymore and that presents the former Tag Champions with the opportunity to cut the ring in half and isolate one of their opponents. There are several moments where Titus really does try to stand up to Edwards and Richards, but each time he gets absolutely smacked back down with fierce strikes. Finally he plants Eddie with the Snake Eyes though, inching across the ring into the pivotal tag to King at the 12 minute mark. Flying Codebreaker COUNTERED to the Royal Flush Backbreaker for 2! ANX are displaying what a top class team they’ve turned into as, after enduring several minutes of punishment when Titus was trapped in the ring, they completely dominate former World Champion Eddie Edwards here. They’re doing such a good job that Davey actually has to dive into the ring on a couple of occasions just to make sure his team don’t suffer an untimely and unexpected defeat.

Of course, Edwards does at last fight his way free of their clutches – levelling Rhett with an enzi then heaving King straight him with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Richards tags in and stands poised on the top rope to deliver a flying double stomp on King for 2. Kenny tries to throw the corkscrew enzi but it’s a move Richards has seen before so he counters to the Anklelock! Then Kenny kicks free of that and heads for the apron…CORKSCREW SENTON TO THE FLOOR! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY TITUS! King and Richards, no strangers to each other from a few high profile singles matches, trade strikes…with Kenny countering the Alarm Clock into a capture suplex! Eddie saves the champ from the Doomsday Blockbuster…then King saves his partner with a spinning heel kick on Davey! Missile dropkick by Edwards! BACK DROP DRIVER BY DAVEY! RHETT NO SELLS! He gets straight up and floors Richards with a dropkick – all four down! They all get up and take turns slapping the taste out of each other’s mouths! Richards puts a cross armbreaker on King just as Eddie traps Titus in the Achilles Lock! The All Nights counter in stereo to simultaneous roll-up attempts! SUPERKICK GERMAN gets 2 on King! So does the powerbomb lungblower combo! ACHILLES LOCK! Titus breaks the hold by shoving Davey into his own partner. The Wolves set up for the Doomsday Ace Crusher…only for King to SHOTGUN KNEE EDDIE! HE KNOCKS DAVEY THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! DOOMSDAY BLOCKBUSTER ON EDDIE…FOR 2! Frog Splash by Rhett…SHOOTING STAR PRESS BY KING! ANX WIN AT 26:15!!

Rating – **** – I’ve heard nothing but good things about this match, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Two talented teams working a really solid formula match, building to a hot final stretch and ending with the right team getting the rub by going over two main event calibre stars. This one was never going to make you jump out of your seat and scream MOTYC at it – but all four athletes played their role well and the general quality of the work was so high that, even in house show mode, this was an absorbing tag team main event.

ANX show genuine sportsmanship by going out of the ring and helping Davey up from the wreckage of the table and back into the ring. Richards returns the favour by putting them way over on the microphone. Eddie echoes the sentiments, then leaves telling Davey he’ll ‘see him at Final Battle’…

Tape Rating – ** – I concede the relatively low rating makes this seem like a bad show. If you’re judging it against the ‘big shows’ in a calendar year then I’ll readily admit Gateway To Honor isn’t particularly great. Recently there was a thread going round the forums about house shows being irrelevant, and it’s shows like this that make me steadfast in my opposition to that viewpoint. None of the matches are very long which means it’s a breeze to sit through. Brief little sprints like Generico/Bennett and Briscoe/TJP were actually great undercard matches. And we got two excellent tag team main events, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. If this was your first ROH show, I’m sure you would have enjoyed it and found it a welcome change of pace from the ‘big two’. And THAT is why house shows are still important. Now ROH has a TV show it’s important to bring live events to those regions – allowing local, new fans to get to see the new stars they now love live and in person. The first show I ever watched was Crowning A Champion. I didn’t come away thinking how rubbish the undercard was on that show. I came away in love with ROH thanks to the incredible main event. And, if this was your first ROH show, I’m quite sure you came away thinking ‘Wolves/ANX was awesome…I want to see more from this promotion’. The reality is, the people moaning about ‘house shows’ on forums, or people like myself writing silly little reviews on a website just aren’t the target market for shows like this – so of course we won’t like them as much. But to casual fans it’s vital to get the product on the road and give them the opportunity to engage with the ‘ROH live’ experience, even if it’s not a major show, an iPPV or a TV taping. Events like this are a vital source of revenue (lets face it, hacks like me are still going to buy it) and an essential method of increasing the fanbase. I knew what I was getting into with this show. I knew it was a b-show. I knew what I was getting myself into – as most ROH fans capable of assessing what a ‘house show’ is would be. I wasn’t expecting a Death Before Dishonor 9 with 45 minute 2/3 falls matches and Ladder Matches at the top of the card. This was a perfectly solid night of wrestling highlighted by two strong tag team encounters. Buy it for what it is and you won’t be disappointed. WGTT/Shock is way under-rated, whilst Wolves/ANX lived up to the hype. I genuinely worry that ROH fans are starting to become spoilt…rant over.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Briscoe vs TJ Perkins (***)
2) Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Future Shock (****)
1) All Night Express vs American Wolves (****)

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