ROH 11th Anniversary Show 3/2/2013

ROH 320 – 11th Anniversary Show – 2nd March 2013

Without wanting to jinx things, and despite all my concerns about the television show thus far in 2013, on paper this card is absolutely stacked and arguably one of the best Ring Of Honor has lined up in a while. The headline bout sees Kevin Steen defend the World Title in a rematch against Jay Lethal. With questions about Steen’s SCUM allegiances and simmering heat stemming back to their bitter non-finish at Killer Instinct last year that one could be quite a spectacle. The other belts are up for grabs too, with the Briscoes defending the Tag Titles against reDRagon, and Adam Cole defending the Television Championship against 2013 Top Prospect Tournament winner and new House Of Truth member Matt Taven. With the likes of Strong vs Elgin in a 2/3 Falls Match and American Wolves vs Forever Hooligans in a dream tag showdown on the undercard we could be in for a great night. There’s also the ominous spectre of Steve Corino’s promise that SCUM will grow and Ring Of Honor will die tonight. Kevin Kelly and Caleb Seltzer welcome us to Chicago Ridge, IL.

QT Marshall vs Adam Page vs Silas Young vs Mike Sydal vs ACH vs Tadarius Thomas
This is a Six Man Mayhem pitting all the guys who failed to win the Top Prospect Tournament (excluding Antonio Thomas, who lets face it nobody cares about) against each other. Marshall, Thomas and ACH are all now contracted talents, but just because they have a spot it doesn’t mean that the pressure isn’t on them to deliver wins, justify that contract and start moving up the card. Page and Silas produced some strong showings in the tournament (and elsewhere across the ROH circuit), but still haven’t produced that one defining moment to earn them a greater commitment.

ACH is, by some distance, the most popular guy in the match. His entrance draws a massive pop from the live crowd. He starts with Page (who is nursing a broken hand and has a heavy cast on it), continuing to draw strong reactions from the fans as he unloads with armdrags and headscissors. Double team gutbuster from ACH and Tadarius sends Page out of the ring…and before we can see those two go at it Young steals their spotlight and chucks ACH out. Sydal evades Young’s Finlay Roll but before he can capitalise Marshall comes in and dishes out cheap right hands to everyone. That approach comes back to haunt him as TD and ACH string more double teams together, and Sydal rounds it off with a flying double knee strike for 2. SHOOTING STAR OFF THE APRON BY PAGE! ACH wants to fly too…but is cruelly denied the opportunity by RD Evans, who is in QT’s corner of course. MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR from Tadarius instead! TOP ROPE MOONSAULT BY SYDAL! The crowd are begging ACH for a dive now, and this time he wipes out Evans before hitting the SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE OUTSIDE! SILAS SUPERPLEXES RD EVANS TO THE FLOOR ON TOP OF EVERYONE! Marshall recovers first and violently kicks ACH off the top rope. He aims another kick at Page’s injured hand then nearly drives him through the ring with an Alabamaslam. Sling Blade by Thomas…standing moonsault from Sydal gets 2! Silas has no time for Mike’s silly antics but misses the Arabian Press and stumbles blindly into a CRADLE DDT FROM ACH! It’s all over, and ACH scores his first ROH victory at 07:01

Rating – *** – Great way to start the show, which gave everyone a chance to do something impressive and drew some huge pops from the audience. This is the kind of thing ROH should be putting onto their television show as it was all kinds of fun. ACH was the undeniable star and already has massive amounts of support from the Ring Of Honor fans. He was the right choice to win the match and presumably we’ll now get to see him far more regularly.

Jimmy Jacobs/Steve Corino vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander
This is a grudge match which goes back to Final Battle 2011. Despite losing to the Briscoes, SCUM still harbour resentment towards C&C who also featured in that match. Corino unleashed Rhino, who laid out Cedric Alexander with a Gore on TV a couple of weeks ago. Caprice and Cedric are looking for some revenge for that assault this evening.

No need for introductions here, with C&C sprinting to the ring ready to take the fight to SCUM. SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT to the outside by Caprice! He follows that with a 619 round the ringpost to Jacobs, leaving both opponents in place for Cedric’s SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Total Elimination on the Zombie Princess gets 2. Corino tries to save but he’s powerless to stop C&C laying him out with the Hart Attack leg lariat. Coleman holds Jacobs down, exposing him for Cedric to deliver a SPRINGBOARD ELBOW DROP OVER THE KNEES! SCUM realise they are struggling to cope with the pace and combo moves of their opponents – and use all of their experience to split them up. They get Caprice well away from his partner and start choking him in the ropes which instantly turns the match in their favour. Corino dismissively slaps Caprice who shows real tenacity to absorb that before completely flooring the former ECW Champion with a Mind Trip. CRADLE BACKBREAKER by Cedric…before Corino brutally smashes him against the ringpost. Rolling suplexes from Coleman, into STEREO NORTHERN LIGHTS by C&C for 2! Jacobs hits the spear on the apron then sprints into the ring for a standing Shiranui/Eternal Dream combo which gets a nearfall on Alexander. Cedric retaliates with a full nelson facebuster to Jacobs. This match is non-stop! Corino saves Jacobs from Overtime by whacking Coleman in the head with a chain. SPIKE PILEDRIVER ON CEDRIC! He takes a horrifying landing on that, and Jacobs pins him for the win at 08:33

Rating – *** – I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this, but it totally surprised me. This may well have been Caprice and Cedric’s best ROH performance thus far. I know they had some great matches with the Bravados last year, but speaking purely in terms of their own performances, they were absolutely stunning tonight. They produced electrifying combos and awesome hard-hitting spots coupled with precise execution and really impressive timing. Corino and Jacobs are veterans, and all they needed to do was sit back and set the stage for C&C to produce the goods. Honestly they were so good here I think it was a real opportunity missed to put C&C over. Corino and Jacobs don’t need wins to be over with the Ring Of Honor fans anyway.

Charlie Haas vs BJ Whitmer – No Holds Barred Match
There was some speculation as to whether this match would even take place after the injuries BJ sustained during that assault from Haas at a Baltimore car dealership. Whitmer raised Charlie’s ire by teaming with Rhett Titus as part of his feud with Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team…and nearly had his career ended by Haas when he landed neck-first on an Olympic Slam through a table at Final Battle. BJ still isn’t 100% after that, but has lots he wants to put right in this dangerous, rule-free environment.

Haas wants to ambush Whitmer in the aisle, meaning that’s where the fight gets started. Soon both men are flying into guardrails and tearing strips out of each other as they circle the ring. When they finally make it to the ring BJ puts a trash can over Haas’ head then gives him a punt straight to the face for 2. Having experienced so many of these brutal ROH brawls in the past Whitmer seems in his element here, putting Charlie in the corner to belt a ladder into his crotch with a chair. In fact, he may even get a little too into it as he spends far too long setting up a table at ringside. It gives Haas enough time to recover and deliver the guardrail backbreaker. The crowd has fun with Charlie as he struggles to position a ladder in the corner…but it’s not funny moments later when he Irish whips his opponent face-first into it. Cheeseburger (who needed surgery after Haas’ attack on him at Honor vs Evil) pops up at ringside distracting Charlie…who eats a shot to the face with a baking sheet from Whitmer. BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX THROUGH A TABLE ON THE FLOOR! Is BJ dead???? That might be the coolest spot Haas has pulled out in his entire ROH tenure! Much to his irritation BJ kicks out though! He puts him under a ladder and absolutely MASSACRES him with a chair…but it’s still just 2! Haas is livid and sets up a table in the middle of the ring looking to repeat the horrifying end to their Final Battle match. BELLY TO BELLY SUPERPLEX THROUGH THE TABLE…BJ KICKS OUT AGAIN! A ladder is set up between two open chairs…but somehow Whitmer blocks the Olympic Slam. WHITMER WITH AN EXPLODER THROUGH THE LADDER! FOR 2! REPEATED KNEE STRIKES TO THE HEAD! HAAS IS OUT COLD! The ref stops it, giving BJ the win at 12:02

Rating – *** – Another match that really exceeded my expectations. I was expecting a few table spots and chair shots, but I really wasn’t expecting them to tell such a great story with it. I don’t think this has been a feud which has really captured people’s imaginations,  but this match really took the fans on a journey. Whitmer has suffered real pain at the hands of Haas, so it made total sense that he would start the match looking to beat the sh*t out of him. Charlie got the upper hand when BJ got carried away with that…and at last we saw the ‘Haashole’ gimmick actually pay off in a match. He wasn’t just looking to beat BJ here, he was being a total prick about it. He put him through a table on the floor. He tried to smash his brains in with a chair. He even tried to repeat the traumatic neck-drop spot from Final Battle. He looks like a dick (and doesn’t need to win to get over with that gimmick), whilst BJ gets to look like a million bucks with the victory here. I could have done without Cheeseburger’s random appearance, but truthfully, for a match I thought was going to suck I was really impressed.

American Wolves vs Forever Hooligans
This match marks the first time we’ve seen Rocky Romero and Alex Koslov in ROH for some time. They are big hits in NJPW at the moment, and when it was announced they were coming to Ring Of Honor for this weekend the first team people wanted to see them square off with was the Wolves. Davey and Rocky are former partners and have held tag championships in Ring Of Honor and New Japan, so a lot of the intrigue here will be around which former NRC member will leave Chicago with the bragging rights.

Davey’s pained look as Koslov murders the Russian national anthem before the match is simply priceless. The No Remorse Corps reunion gets us underway with Richards and Romero tentatively trading basics whilst looking to avoid costly early errors. Davey lands a kick and rubs salt into the wounds with a little ‘Azucar’ pelvic thrusting. Rocky begs Davey to stop kicking him and backs off to start hugging the referee. No dice from the Wolves though, as they take it in turns to unload with ferocious strikes on him. Koslov tries to save…only for both men to be kicked out of the ring. STEREO TOPES by the Wolves! Quick question – which is more annoying out of Kevin Kelly’s ‘soaring and scoring’ line or Caleb constantly pronouncing it No Remorse ‘corpse’? The Hooligans are struggling to get out of the blocks here and have been on the receiving end of five minutes of non-stop punishment. Finally Romero lands a springboard knee drop on Edwards which gets his team into the match for the first time. He kicks Eddie’s knee out from under him as he tries to fight back with chops…and with frightening speed and precision the Hooligans have Die Hard isolated in the ring and in serious trouble. Mental clothesline flurry from Romero (apparently that’s called the Forever Attack), but he gasses himself doing it and amusingly runs screaming into a lariat from Edwards. Die Hard powerbombs Romero on top of Koslov and makes the critical tag to Davey. Handspring enzi sends Alex spinning through the air, and a bridging German suplex gets 2 just seconds later. Double stomp misses though, and Koslov hits back with a spinning roundhouse kick from the blindside. Cossack Kicks get 2…as does a backbreaker/flying knee combo. Edwards comes in to save his partner and nearly takes Alex’s head off with a superkick. Boston Knee Party…SUPERKICK TOMBSTONE! Somehow Koslov kicks out from that! DOUBLE DOUBLE STOMP NAILED! Romero dives in at the last to save the match this time. He stops the Wolves hitting the powerbomb lungblower…then spend an age setting something up in the corner. SPRINGBOARD SUPER RANA off Koslov’s shoulders! Koslov follows that up with a big frog splash for 2! Double Alarm Clock on him, and this time the Wolves NAIL the powerbomb lungblower. That’s enough for them to win it at 15:41

Rating – *** – I enjoyed that, but I can see how a lot of people found this a little underwhelming. Considering this was a ‘dream match’, and considering how well Davey and Rocky know each other, a lot of this did feel a little disjointed off-key. It’s probably fair to say that the Hooligans weren’t working to their maximum, but all four are easily good enough to work a decent match in their sleep. I suppose it’s disappointing that they only managed to produce a decent match rather than an outstanding one, but that didn’t stop it being entertaining nonetheless. I’d happily see a rematch if ROH can get more dates out of Romero and Koslov.

We get handshakes and embraces all round, with all four men raising their arms aloft to a warm ovation from the Chicago crowd.

Roderick Strong vs Michael Elgin – 2/3 Falls Match
This will be the conclusion to the long-standing rivalry between these two former House Of Truth members. During their time in Truth Martini’s stable Elgin grew increasingly resentful of Roddy’s billing as the ‘top dog’ of the stable, whilst Strong was incredibly jealous of Elgin’s breakout year in 2012, which included epic MOTYC’s against the likes of Davey Richards and Kevin Steen. They finally clashed for the first time at Final Battle, and although Strong won that night, the whole match was tainted thanks to the unwelcome interventions of their former manager Martini. Unbreakable also fell to defeat against Roderick as recently as last week on Sinclair TV as part of a trios tag match. No Truth Martini, and in a 2/3 Falls Match there will be nowhere to hide. Who finally claims the bragging rights as the better man between these two?

The match explodes into life at around the 90 second mark when Elgin starts CARTWHEELING around Strong to get the better of him in a wrestling exchange. Roddy doesn’t like that and HAMMERS Elgin with a jumping knee. SPINNING BACK FIST! BUCKLE BOMB! SPIRAL BOMB! And just like that Unbreakable takes the first fall at 01:58! Roderick’s brains are still scrambled as we come to the end of the rest period, so he tries to leave the ring. Sadly for him Elgin gives chase, battering him against the guardrails repeatedly. Desperate measures for Strong, who scoops Elgin off the apron for a BACK DROP DRIVER ON THE FLOOR! From there we don’t get anything pretty from Strong. He’s down a fall and frantically trying to get back onto an even footing in the match. He repeatedly stomps and clubs at Elgin’s back, softening up for his major offensive weapons. And whenever Unbreakable looks to mount a comeback he cuts it off with a kick to the knees, or a shot to the face. Elgin comes off the top rope with a football tackle (he’s 1-0 up, he can afford to take some risks)…and follows it with the Black Hole Slam into the Crossface! TORTURE RACK BACKBREAKER ON STRONG! It was a fraction of a second away from being over right there! Roddy pummels on Elgin in the corner like a manic, then drags him out with the pumphandle suplex. Gibson Driver blocked…but Elgin leaves his head exposed for Strong to hit the Black Superkick. Turnbuckle backbreaker, ROLLED INTO THE ORANGE CRUSH BACKBREAKER! Strong evens things up to 1-1 at 11:24. Roddy refuses to let Elgin have his rest period and sprints across the ring to knee him in the face then deliver the Death By Roderick for 2. RUNNING DVD INTO THE BUCKLES by Elgin to counter what appeared to be an attempt at an A-Double crucifix driver by Strong! CORKSCREW SENTON FROM ELGIN! He hardly ever gets to actually hit that! ROLLING DEAD-LIFT GERMANS! Strong rolls out of a dead-lift superplex attempt…INTO A LIGERBOMB FOR 2! DEAD-LIFT SPIRAL BOMB FOR 2! CROSSFACE! STRONG TAPS! It’s all over in a flash, with Elgin taking the match 2-1 at 15:24

Rating – **** – I’m calling it, what a super-underrated match this one was. I’ve not seen any love for this at all, with most people really failing to get into it or being really unhappy about how short it was. I’ll admit I’m a tad saddened ROH couldn’t find more than 15 minutes it, but man alive did these two ever fill it with some real quality. Elgin, furious at having lost twice to Strong in recent months, exploded out of the blocks and took the first fall easily. In the build-up to this contest, Elgin had repeatedly promised that there was no way Roddy could beat him twice…and having fallen 1-0 down in less than two minutes suddenly all the pressure was on Roddy. The way he approached the match was just AWESOME. He fought like a cornered animal – kicking, clawing, stomping and punching relentlessly at his bigger opponent. Elgin continued to play his part well too, the unrelenting, ‘Unbreakable’ force who just kept getting up and trying his damndest to hurt his opponent. In the end Strong managed to land an Austin Aries-style flurry of offensive strikes to beat the bigger man (as Aries did to win the World Championship from Samoa Joe back in 2004) and we were down to the final fall. I would have liked a little longer for them to play the final fall out, but the wonderful storytelling continued as the two rivals started dropping BOMBS on each other looking to get the win. The explosive and very sudden finish really puts Elgin over too – which was the whole point of his feud with Strong anyway. I understand that people have been disappointed with this feud. It’s a shame they’ve never been put in a position to really deliver a main event MOTYC-level encounter. And of course it’s a shame ROH couldn’t find more time for this match. But, for their spot on the card, I thought the quality of the work at both Final Battle and now tonight has really shone through. These two are comfortably amongst the very best workers on the American independent scene right now.

Matt Hardy comes out to do commentary on the TV Title Match. The Chicago market (one of ROH’s longest-serving destinations with a high density of ‘old school’ fans) give him a ferocious response, pelting him with garbage and toilet rolls as he tries to cut a promo. He points out that Cole’s next defence after tonight is against him, but he is largely drowned out by ‘boring’ chants…

Adam Cole vs Matt Taven – ROH TV Title Match
This is the championship opportunity Taven earned by winning the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament. The 2011 tournament winner Mike Bennett failed to unseat Christopher Daniels for the TV Title, so if Taven can somehow get past Cole tonight he’ll make history as the first TPT winner to go on and claim Ring Of Honor championship gold. He defeated Tadarius Thomas in the finals under somewhat nefarious circumstances – with Truth Martini actually trying to help TD win (he’d predicted that Tadarius would win since the first round), only for Thomas to decline Truth’s help and Taven take it instead. Martini was impressed with Matt’s opportunism, and immediately convinced him to join the new House Of Truth. Now with new tights, an awesome new entrance theme and the permanent spot in ROH that he’s craved since 2009, Taven has a huge opportunity to upset the apple cart and pull off a genuine shock by unseating the popular Adam Cole this evening. Will Cole be looking past his opponent tonight to his scheduled defence against Matt Hardy at tomorrow night’s television tapings?

Taven clearly has a new attitude instilled in him by Martini, and smiles broadly as he cockily shakes hands with the champion before the match. Cole responds by comfortably out-wrestling him on the canvas and driving the challenger out of the ring. He tentatively crawls back in only to eat the canvas again from a neckbreaker. Clearly he needs to change his game, and he does so by dropkicking Adam out of the ring. The champion cuts off Matt’s dive attempt with a jumping enzi…but Truth Martini is on hand to drag Cole off the apron distracting him for long enough to allow Taven to hit a springboard dropkick. Spinning heel kick nailed on the floor with Cole still trying to get at Martini. Stalling suplex scores for the challenger, and he arrogantly nips up straight into a SPRINGBOARD corkscrew senton for 2. He then pulls Todd Sinclair aside, giving Martini the chance to choke Adam in the ropes. Taven borderline sexually assaults the champ as he mounts him for repeated right hands, and is now so confident that he pauses the onslaught to argue with a fan too. Cole is looking ragged, barely managing to get his opponent up for a DVD over the knee. MID-AIR DROPKICK counters a huge flying crossbody attempt from Matt and it leaves both men down. ‘Nigel is racist towards Mattitude’ – Hardy. That line actually got a laugh out of me. Meanwhile in the ring Taven shows real heart by absorbing some of Cole’s best shots then firing back with a swinging neckbreaker for 2. HEAD DROP SUNSET FLIP BOMB BY COLE! GERMAN SUPLEX! SHINING WIZARD GETS 2! Despite everyone (including Hardy and Kelly on commentary) looking past him, the challenger is showing real desire to pull off the upset tonight. He gets his own nearfall with a springboard enzi to the back of the head. SLINGSHOT DDT ON THE APRON! Cole brings Matt back in, and heads upstairs to finish him off. Flying Crossbody misses, but Taven takes way too long to cover and it gives Cole the chance to hit the cradlebreaker. Figure 4 Leglock applied…but Taven finds the ropes. Florida Key blocked…and Martini smacks Cole in the back with the Book Of Truth! HEADLOCK DRIVER! TAVEN WINS! It’s a huge upset, and we have a new Television Champion at 13:34

Rating – *** – Not too many people called that. What a crazy change in fortunes for Matt Taven. Last year he couldn’t get on the roster despite producing a string of superb matches on television. Now, after just two months of 2013 he’s on the roster, won the Top Prospect Tournament, has one of the most over managers in ROH and is the new TV Champion. The match itself wasn’t spectacular, but it did have some really neat little elements. Having Hardy and Kelly at ringside playing up the fact that this was supposed to be just a warm-up title defence for Cole ahead of the ‘box office’ match of the weekend against Hardy tomorrow REALLY helped amp up the surprise when Taven won. The match itself also did a lot to get Taven over. Martini’s interference was tactfully done and wasn’t over-used (it wouldn’t have made sense if Taven had gone over Cole cleanly)…and Matt showed subtle hints of a new heel persona which we haven’t seen from him previously. He also absorbed or countered all of Cole’s best shots. He escaped the Figure 4 which has beaten Kyle O’Reilly. He ducked the Flying Crossbody which has beaten Davey Richards. And he countered the Florida Key which has beaten Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong. He also debuted a sick new finisher and generally comes out of this show looking really positive – and takes the TV Title in a fresh, new, hopefully Matt Hardy-free direction.

Hardy is nearly speechless at ringside as he realises his match with Adam Cole tomorrow now won’t be a TV Title Match after all. Taven makes it worse (and gets a big laugh from me) by celebrating literally right in front of him.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs reDRagon – ROH Tag Title Match
Fish and O’Reilly are now officially going by their reDRagon team name. They won the right to challenge the Briscoes when they defeated their arch rivals the American Wolves in a Gauntlet Match on Sinclair TV. They the Briscoes this evening, both of whom were part of the very first Ring Of Honor show  (Jay worked the first ‘official’ match against Amazing Red, whilst Mark was in his corner) and are still with the promotion all these years later – having become the most decorated tag team in ROH history, and indeed one of the most highly-rated tag teams on the planet. That’s what Fish and O’Reilly will have to overcome if they want to leave Chicago with the belts tonight.

O’Reilly starts with Mark, and ducks his head into a spinning heel kick from Briscoe inside the first minute. It’s a lot more even when Jay and Fish get in there. They can’t be separated when it comes to trading holds…so Jay changes the formula by punching Bobby’s lights out and showing his tag team experience by hauling him straight into the Briscoe corner for further punishment. Mark tries to break out the Redneck Kung Fu but, much as Bobby promised in a pre-match interview, he out-kung fu’s Mark to give reDRagon the advantage for the first time. The challengers get a 2-count with a tilta-whirl backbreaker/flying knee combo. Jay gets tagged…but is caught off guard as Fish leaps over the ropes and NAILS his standing leg with a roundhouse kick. Jay feels his leg, and in a flash reDRagon are working that body party with great skill. O’Reilly kicks out his legs from under him again then distracts the referee and Mark, allowing Fish to land an unseen diving headbutt. They try to haul Jay to the outside for Kyle’s suicidal missile dropkick but it’s not to be as Jay rises at the last to hit a MID-AIR LARIAT which blocks it. Mark’s Redneck Kung Fu is much more successful on O’Reilly…and he follows up with a fisherman buster on Bobby for good measure. DRAGON SUPLEX…gets 2! Is Mark doing these moves ironically? FISH-erman’s busters? DRAGON suplexes? Jay gets a nearfall with an Eddie Guerrero-esque frog splash…but leaves his head exposed to an axe kick from O’Reilly. TOTAL ELIMINATION NECKBREAKER! Fish tries to come off the top…but gets violently shoved off the turnbuckles by Mark. Meanwhile Jay is hoisting Kyle onto his shoulders – DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON THE FLOOR! That’s O’Reilly seemingly out of it…and he looks out on his feet as he desperately tries to save Fish from a Doomsday Device in the ring. He and Mark trade shots on the apron…and after Mark is busted open with a headbutt Fish hits an OVERHEAD BELLY TO BELLY OFF THE APRON! Fish kicks the legs to stop Jay hitting the Jay Driller. DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON JAY FOR 2! CHASING THE DRAGON! New champions! It’s another title change at 15:12

Rating – **** – I thought this lacked the story-telling of Strong/Elgin, but packed much more of a punch with it’s explosive climactic sequence. It’s a shame they couldn’t have a little more time to really flesh out some of the themes they were establishing, because there were some subtle hints at something really special. Mark not being able to do his Redneck Kung Fu on Fish (who ROH are trying to get over as a legit MMA guy) was a nice touch. I loved Mark pulling out moves related to his opponent’s name and team, although I really don’t know if that was intentional or not. I also really liked how the classic ‘heel heat segment’ portion of the match wasn’t just a waste of time – as Fish kicked Jay’s legs right at the end to set him up for their loss. That summed up Bobby’s performance in general. I think he’s a very special performer, who does some truly intelligent and unique things in every match it has. I’m not sure many people appreciate that yet, but they will in time.

Another clever little touch from reDRagon, as they demand Cary Silkin gets into the ring to present them with their championship belts. That’s something usually reserved for new ROH World Champions only. But it nicely cements them as talented heel title holders.

Kevin Steen vs Jay Lethal – ROH World Title Match
After back to back title changes in the previous two bouts Kevin Steen probably isn’t looking forward to stepping through the curtain now. He had Lethal contractually boxed out of the World Title picture after their controversial non-finish at Killer Instinct last year. In an ugly incident involving Lethal’s mother that caused Lethal to snap and assault Jim Cornette (removing him from ROH) and saw Steen threaten legal proceedings – Mr Wrestling was awarded a new championship belt, the legalisation of his Package Piledriver finish once again and the stipulation that Lethal would never again be allowed to challenge him. Jay threatened to ruin Ladder War 4 between Steen and El Generico at Final Battle before being thrown out of the building by Nigel McGuinness – who later told him the only way he could book a Steen/Lethal ROH Championship rematch was if Steen agreed to it. As is, Steen needed no convincing. He has seemed at odds with his SCUM associates, and in recent weeks on TV has cut promos proclaiming himself to be a ‘proud’ Ring Of Honor Champion…even going so far as to stop Rhino delivering a Gore to Lethal. We now know Jay has ‘killer instinct’. The issue here is whether he can succeed where so many others have failed, and be the man to dethrone the most dominant ROH World Champion in several years.

Lethal waves away Steen’s attempt to follow the Code Of Honor, instead opting to punch Steen in the face to get the fight started. It’s almost a mirror image of Killer Instinct as they slug it out on the floor, crashing into guardrails swinging punches from all angles. Lethal snatches the initiative by hanging Steen in the ropes for a dropkick…soon following it with an IED-style strike in the corner. A springboard dropkick variant has the champion on rubbery legs outside the ring, unable to move as Jay builds up a head of steam to hit the REPEATED tope suicidas. Steen counters the last one with the APRON BOMB! After a dominant opening five minutes Jay finds himself on the defensive for the first time, sliding down the ringpost after being crotched against it by the champion. Despite some biting from Lethal Steen maintains control with a high angle DDT; scoring the first nearfall of the contest with that manoeuvre. Steen-ton attempted early…and of course his opponent gets the knees up. Dragon Suplex blocked…lungblower instead! It gets an instant retort from Mr Wrestling who lands the pumphandle cradlebreaker. POP-UP NECKBREAKER BY LETHAL! LETHAL INJECTION! Unfortunately Todd Sinclair took a bump in the process…meaning there’s nobody to count the fall and we soon have Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs snatching the chance to run in and hit a SPIKE PILEDRIVER! Corino drapes the fallen Steen over his opponent, then looks on in horror as Jay kicks out. Jacobs actually attacks Sinclair…bringing Nigel McGuinness to the ring. The crowd goes nuts as the Match Maker threatens to fight Corino! After all that Lethal and Steen are right back where they started, and despite all the outside interference all they are interested in is beating the hell out of each other. NECK DROP DRAGON SUPLEX BY LETHAL! STEEN NO SELLS! DRAGON SUPLEX AGAIN! TWO ONLY! Lethal Combination countered into a sit-out powerbomb by the champion. SUPERKICK FLURRY! LETHAL COMBINATION! MACHO ELBOW! And still Steen kicks out! Koji Clutch applied…but Mr Wrestling powers to the ropes to ensure the fight continues. They spill to the apron…F-5 THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! BOTH MEN DOWN! Jimmy Jacobs is still lurking at ringside, and he tries to stop Lethal from getting back into the ring before the 20-count expires. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER…FOR 2! Jacobs tries to give Steen his railroad spike, but the champion refuses! Jay tries to go back to the top rope but can’t get there quick enough for another Macho Elbow. Kevin crotches him…TURNBUCKLE BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAH! STEEN RETAINS! Using El Generico’s finishing move, Steen retains the belt at 20:47

Rating – **** – Absolutely awesome match, fought in front of the best Chicago crowd I’ve seen for some time. Of course it wasn’t perfect, I felt they relied a little too much on the formula of ‘big spot…lie around…big spot’ a little too much, and of course there was a tad too much outside interference. But, despite some technical deficiencies, the one thing they absolutely did was create a real spectacle. The crowd was red hot and into everything they were doing. I’ve had my doubts about Steen’s creative direction. I’ve certainly doubted whether the ‘killer instinct’ thing with Jay Lethal was the right idea…and whether it was correct that he was the guy who put Cornette out of ROH rather than Steen himself. But that said, clearly the angle has worked because EVERY nearfall Lethal got was cheered to the rafters. People truly believed the championship could change hands this evening – the sign of good story-telling. I just felt there were too many issues to put this in ****1/2 MOTYC territory. It was definitely ROH’s best match of 2013 at this point though.

Before Steen can even celebrate Rhino is in the ring…hitting the GORE on Lethal! Jimmy Jacobs lays out Todd Sinclair for a second time, and the Briscoes have to come out to try to restore some order. GORE ON JAY! Contra Code wipes out Mark…so here come Caprice and Cedric. JIMMY RAVE IS HERE! IN A SCUM SHIRT! BJ Whitmer comes to help fight Rave…UNTIL HE IS TAKEN OUT BY RHETT TITUS! He has a SCUM shirt too! Elgin is out, but before he can do any real damage Cliff Compton makes his ROH debut as another SCUM member, throwing powder in Unbreakable’s eyes. Elgin is handcuffed, Mark Briscoe is tied up too…and Steen is watching on in total disbelief as mayhem unfolds around him. The American Wolves and Adam Cole try to uphold ROH’s honour as Jacobs goes around tying people up. Matt Hardy sprints to the ring to lay Cole out with the Twist Of Fate. HARDY IS IN SCUM TOO! Security evacuate Kevin Kelly and Caleb Seltzer, with seemingly every ROH wrestler now tied up or handcuffed. Steve Corino is back, proudly proclaiming this to be the beginning of the end for Ring Of Honor. Steen refuses to get into the ring with his new SCUM allies, and Nigel watches from the aisle almost in tears. Fans pelt the ring with trash as Jacobs starts knifing an ROH banner…and the new SCUM guys tear the remainder up with their bare hands. That was a stunning way to end the show!

Tape Rating – **** – Another awesome ROH ippv. I’m not entirely happy with everything in ROH-land at present, but the last 3 internet pay-per-view events have been outstanding. There wasn’t a bad match on this entire show. Even matches you’d think would be awful (like a Charlie Haas singles match) or matches you didn’t expect much from (like the C&C/SCUM tag) totally exceed your expectations. I can understand that some were disappointed by Wolves/Hooligans, or Elgin/Strong. I’ll admit they didn’t reach pre-match expectations, but in and of themselves it wasn’t like they were bad. Of course I’d have liked Strong/Elgin to get more time, and of course I think 15 minutes for a 2/3 Falls Match is retarded. BUT, poor booking doesn’t diminish how well those two performers used what little time they had. I have their match as one of the most under-rated matches ROH has produced in months, and a terrific example of telling a story through a match. And not only was the in-ring content good, but ROH also left us with a reason to keep watching the product moving forward. Matt Taven shocking Adam Cole was a HUGE surprise, and a real vote of confidence in Truth Martini – who we can presume will now be a major character on the ROH landscape. We had two title changes, meaning two new championship reigns to watch unfold in the coming weeks. And of course, the chaotic mayhem of the SCUM attack on ROH at the end was massively memorable. Even if the angle bombs that was something truly special, and a segment fans will still be talking about years from now. And even if none of that floats your boat, Kevin Steen and Jay Lethal produced a great main event. They’ve been two of ROH’s most consistent in-ring performers over the last year, and they lived up to all the hype with their feud-ending clash on this DVD. After a decent, solid, but not exactly world-beating start to 2013, this was the night that kicked ROH’s year up into a higher gear and is definitely a show you should be adding to your DVD collection.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs reDRagon (****)
2) Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong (****)
1) Kevin Steen vs Jay Lethal (****)

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