ROH Border Wars 5/4/2013

ROH 323 – Border Wars 2013 – 4th May 2013

I think ROH realised they’d scheduled themselves into a bit of a hole with this one. They put a lot into the Supercard Of Honor event, looking to make an impact as Wrestlemania weekend ran through the New York area, which is one of their strongest markets. But booking another ppv just a few weeks later meant they just didn’t have enough time to get their angles together. That’s why, even before Supercard, the announcement was made that, for the first time in several years, NOAH would be linking up with ROH again and sending some talent their way. It was soon announced that Taiji Ishimori and Naomichi Marufuji would make their ROH returns at Border Wars – and they were swiftly booked in ‘dream matches’ against the American Wolves to ensure instant buyrates. The proverbial spanner was thrown into the works a couple of weeks before though, when it was announced that Marufuji was now injured and wouldn’t be making the trip. ROH were out a major draw…at majorly short notice. They needed to do something drastic, and they did. They hyped a ‘mystery opponent’, and called up one of the guys ROH fans call for pretty much every time there’s a ‘mystery opponent’ slot on a show. They called an ROH legend, who hadn’t appeared since 2003…they called Paul London. Sure we still have Edwards/Ishimori. Sure we have Adam Cole challenging Jay Briscoe for the World Title. We have Mark Briscoe going for Matt Taven’s TV Title, an ROH vs SCUM tag with heaps on the line, an ‘I Quit’ Match and more…but lets face it, people are here tonight to see Davey vs London. Can Paul still hang in an ROH ring? Will the whacky attitude, botched spots and apparent disinterest in wrestling that marred his (in my view massively underrated) post-WWE run on the indies come back to wreck his ROH legacy? Stay tuned to find out. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness are in Toronto, ONT

Tadarius Thomas/ACH vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander
Such is the popularity of rising star ACH that the TD/ACH combo have actually started to eclipse Caprice and Cedric – and that’s a shame since they have been putting in strong performances but going under the radar for sometime. Ultimately both of these duos are tremendously exciting and capable of frantic and spectacular matches. Both have produced great matches with the American Wolves this year, and if either team wants to get into the running to challenge reDRagon then you’d suggest a win here was vitally important.

Tadarius and Caprice start (both of whom have far more hair than they used to), and go back and forth on the canvas without being able to get the upper hand. There’s no disguising who the fans are here to see though, as they go nuts for ACH as he tags in. He makes Alexander look like a rookie as he comes at him with armdrags from all angles…and it’s his team that seizes the initiative. ACH gets 2 with an inverted Paydirt, as they keep Cedric as far from his partner as possible. ACH BACK FLIPS OFF THE APRON TO AVOID CAPRICE! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY CEDRIC INSTEAD! That was jaw dropping…and the momentum shifts in an instant as Coleman catches Thomas going for one of his crazy capoeira kicks and holds him for long enough to allow Alexander to put boots through his skull. C&C use TD’s unique kicks against him, countering them to leave him exposed to some really brutal head shots. Leg lariat Hart Attack gets 2…before Tadarius finally lands ROLLING ENZIS to them and gets the hot tag to ACH. He hands Cedric up in the corner for an unprotected dropkick to the face! HANDSPRING MOONSAULT TO THE OUTSIDE BY THOMAS! ALLEY OOP CORKSCREW SENTON FROM ACH! BRIDGING PUMPHANDLE SUPLEX…FOR 2! Thomas gives Caprice some really nasty looking kicks…but the inexperience of TD and ACH shows as they hesitate on a double team, and ACH is left exposed to the rolling northern lights combo. KUNG FU FIGHT SEQUENCE between Tadarius and Cedric! SLINGSHOT TKO BY ACH! NO HANDS RANA FROM CAPRICE! OVERTIME NAILED! Coleman and Alexander get the victory at 10:56

Rating – *** – Perfect choice to open, and a wonderful showcase for four athletes who just keep getting better and better as the year progresses. Cedric, in particular, looked outstanding in this one. I really want to see him start working a few singles matches against some of the better workers in ROH (Davey, Eddie, Fish, Lethal, Strong etc) as I think that will really aid his growth as a worker. ACH shone too and, in many ways, is the most important talent pick-up for ROH in some time. He has an x-factor to him that you can’t teach. He does things nobody else on this roster can’t do and, most importantly, the fans absolutely love him.

Mike Bennett vs Roderick Strong
So after disappearing for months, it seems like ROH have nailed The Prodigy down for a run of shows. This was originally set to be a triple threat with Mike Mondo included too, but Mondo suffered a ‘training injury’ (there are other stories going round about the real reason for his absence) and is now out of ROH for the foreseeable future. Roddy and Bennett met a few weeks ago on TV, and although it was Strong who left victorious, they were involved in a heated post-match brawl and will eagerly anticipate getting to dish out more damage to their rival here tonight.

As ever, Maria Kanellis looks ridiculously hot. She is called into action quickly, consoling Bennett after he absorbs a chop from Strong. It’s apparent that the Prodigy wants to slow the pace, whilst Roddy favours something a little quicker. Roderick hits a backbreaker and has Mike on the rack at three minutes. Maria makes her presence felt again, hopping onto the apron and distracting Strong for long enough to let Bennett land some punches. The fight spills outside…SPINEBUSTER on the apron from the Prodigy! Before Roddy has time to recover from that his opponent is on him, repeatedly whipping him into the railings to do more damage to that back. It’s an interesting twist on a match to see someone target Strong’s back…not that the commentary team notice as Maria joins them. Strong quickens the pace again, with Mike once more unable to cope with his explosiveness. He drops Bennett with a superplex…then doubles over in pain from his own back injury. Spinebuster gets Prodigy a 2! Spear misses though, allowing Roderick to hoist him for a cradle backbreaker. Death By Roderick COUNTERED to a jack-knife pin for 2…and then Mike nails the Spear at the second time of asking. Strong turns the TKO into the Stronghold! Inevitably Maria is on the apron again…and the ref doesn’t see Bennett tapping! BOX OFFICE SMASH! Strong barely kicked out there. To add insult to injury Bennett puts Roddy in the Stronghold…but Cheeseburger runs out and KISSES MARIA! Bennett is furious! SICK KICK! Strong snatches another victory over him at 12:43

Rating – *** – I thought this was a vast improvement on their TV match, where they worked well within themselves and got dragged down by overbooking (and Mondo’s lousy commentary). The twist on Strong’s usual match (with Bennett targeting the back) was subtle and effective, and I really liked the dynamic of Roddy constantly trying to speed the pace up only for Bennett to slow it down again.

Rhett Titus vs BJ Whitmer – ‘I Quit’ Match
This will be the final singles battle in the feud between these two former partners. BJ returned to ROH to help Rhett Titus fight Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team after he was left high and dry by Kenny King’s departure to TNA. Titus then stabbed him in the back to join SCUM at the 11th Anniversary Show…and they now stand on opposing sides as Whitmer once again answers ROH’s call to defend it’s honour. As recently as last week on television Titus gained a dubious victory over BJ (he used Corino’s ever-reliable roll of quarters)…but tonight he has to be considered a massive underdog against a man who has fought in ‘I Quit’ matches, in Street Fights, in cage matches, in Cage Of Death matches, and in Barbed Wire matches throughout his Ring Of Honor career.

Whitmer shakes off Rhett’s early strikes as if he doesn’t even feel them…but then finds himself distracted by Steve Corino at ringside. Elbow suicida drives Titus into the rails, as Nigel McGuinness leaves commentary and retrieves referees to escort Corino from ringside. It’s completely one-sided for several minutes until Titus manages to drape BJ over the top turnbuckle. A snap suplex lands on the floor and the SCUM member tries to choke his opponent into saying ‘I Quit’. He doesn’t of course, and refuses again moments later after Rhett boots his head against the ringpost. Next he breaks out the Last Chancery – submission hold of his former mentor Austin Aries. Still BJ doesn’t quit…and suddenly we’re back to square one with him ignoring Titus’ punches. He drops Rhettski straight down on his neck with an exploder suplex. Rhett brings zip-ties into the match and instantly regrets it as Whitmer uses them to tie him to the top rope. Repeated, unprotected punches to the face rain down on Titus but to his credit he refuses to quit. Steve Corino comes back…and KNEELS in front of Whitmer! He begs to be hit with a steel chair in Rhett’s place…but Titus quits just to save him! BJ wins at 11:32

Rating – * – The match itself wasn’t actually as bad as people had led me to believe, but yeah, that finish was garbage. I completely understand the industry’s current stance on unprotected chair shots to the head. I understand ROH are particularly geared up to this thanks to the influence of Nigel McGuinness. But here’s the problem: for better or worse, the fans don’t put the same reverence on this as yet. Titus quitting to save Corino (a former EXTREME Championship Wrestling World Champion – extreme being the operative word) from a simple chair shot, whilst noble, comes off as stupid. Credit to the acting skills of Whitmer, Titus, Corino and Nigel who really want it to get over…but I’m sorry it didn’t work at all for me. An extremely unsatisfactory conclusion to this mini-feud.

Cliff Compton and Jimmy Jacobs rush the ring for a gang attack on Whitmer…with Michael Elgin and Jay Lethal soon out in hot pursuit.

Michael Elgin/Jay Lethal vs Jimmy Jacobs/Cliff Compton
There’s a lot on the line for both ROH and SCUM in this one. If Elgin and Jacobs win then Steve Corino has vowed to leave the wrestling industry forever, but if his SCUM charges emerge victorious then SCUM are awarded a World Title shot, and Steve Corino becomes the new colour analyst for ROH TV and ippv. Unbreakable and Lethal were opponents at Supercard Of Honor, with Elgin winning an MOTYC to become #1 contender for the World Title. Sadly their show-stealing moment was ruined when SCUM assaulted them, so they are looking for some retribution too.

The fight begins with Titus still zip-tied to the ropes which is somewhat unique. Lethal beats Jacobs down then dishes out a superkick to the helpless Rhettski for good measure. Compton is in the firing line next, propped up in a chair against the rails as Jay pummels him with a stream of right hands. Elgin makes it worse by booting Cliff straight into the laps of the front row fans! Back inside the ring Elgin hoists Jacobs up…and he’s so small you feel like Unbreakable could literally stand there all night before hitting the stalled vertical suplex. Double hiptoss/dropkick/senton combo as Team ROH show a surprising amount of cohesion and continue to dominate the former Age Of The Fall leader. ‘He can do more than just throw powder in people’s eyes’ – Kevin Kelly on Cliff Compton’s abilities. He doesn’t do much to illustrate Kevin’s point though, as he finds himself up in Elgin’s endless stalling vertical suplex too. Lethal doesn’t want to be left out, and amusingly copies Michael using Jimmy Jacobs. Next Jay whips Cliff into a slingshot shoulder block from Elgin. Torture rack neckbreaker nailed too, then Unbreakable propels Lethal into a tope suicida to the floor on Jimmy. In the ring Elgin drills Compton with the Black Hole Slam, but on the outside it seems like Lethal suffered a leg injury when he pulled out that tope. Corino and Nigel clash again as the King Of Old School demands the match be stopped and the Match Maker comes to check on Jay’s condition.

Jacobs and Compton celebrate in the ring as Lethal has to be carried to the back, and have big smiles on their faces as Elgin marches back into the squared circle looking to fight them both at once. Jacobs tries to spear him…ELGIN CATCHES HIM IN MID-AIR! BUCKLE BOMB! FALLAWAY SLAM/SAMOAN DROP COMBO on both of his opponents! The numbers are just too much though, and as Elgin sets up the Spiral Bomb on Jimmy, Cliff grabs him for a shoulder-first trip into the ringpost. We’re at 15 minutes now, and it looks like hope is lost for Team ROH as Compton and Jacobs take it in turns to work over their tiring adversary. Jimmy clings to a sleeper hold like a limpet, as Cliff lays in some punches for good measure. Still Unbreakable doesn’t know when he’s beaten, as he Bam Bam Bigelow vs Taz’s Jacobs, AND DEAD-LIFT GERMAN’S COMPTON AT THE SAME TIME! Kevin Steen is here! He climbs onto the apron amidst a sea of streamers and demands to be let in as a replacement partner! NIGEL SAYS YES! Elgin (reluctantly) tags Steen in, and Mr Wrestling storms in to unload on his former SCUM team-mates. He hits the apron bomb on Jimmy…feeding him into the ring for Elgin’s Buckle Bomb. Spiral Bomb prevented as Cliff clips Michael’s knees though! Steen tries to give him the Package Piledriver, but Jacobs surprises him with a school boy pin…and Mr Wrestling has his shoulders counted down for three at 20:06

Rating – *** – That was possibly slightly long, and I don’t understand why Steen had to be inserted into this match only to have his momentum killed by being jobbed out in his first match since losing the World Title…but for the most part it was really entertaining. Elgin was on top form and came up with some many innovative ways to beat the crap out of his two opponents simultaneously, and I actually quite enjoyed Jacobs and Compton as a team too. Corino on commentary is always gold, and if ROH don’t want to pay Nigel in the role long term (presumably that’s Nigel’s decision rather than theirs) then Steve is probably the best alternative – although personally I’m still very much in favour of bringing Dave Prazak back (yes, I said it and stand by it).

INTERMISSION – Kevin Kelly tells the viewing audience that Paul London is amped up and ready for his ROH return. Interesting he says that he was part of the scouting process that helped bring Paul to the WWF in 2003…

QT Marshall and RD Evans make their way to the ring, despite not being booked tonight. The crowd Fandango’s through RD’s attempt at cutting a promo, which he neatly downplays. He wants reDRagon to be stripped of the Tag Titles (and presumably award them to himself and God’s Gift) for not appearing at this show. The lights start to flicker, an ominous beep starts playing over the sound system and strange pieces of video start interrupting the feed. They are clips of Tommaso Ciampa’s rehab, although Kevin Kelly assures us he’s back in the US and not ready to return yet…but suddenly all the lights go out! HE’S HERE! Ciampa stands in the aisle…and RD Evans is running away! He shoves Marshall into Tommaso’s path and heads for the hills! QT is KO’d with the Bare Knee strikes before Evans finally pulls him out of the ring!

SIDENOTE – This is such a minor quibble, but I really don’t think Eddie should be using the American Wolves theme for his entrance music during singles matches. I get that, as far as the generic ROH themes go, it’s pretty decent and recognisable. I get that he used it during singles matches during the initial Wolves run. But, since 2009 and their time as dominant Tag Champions he has progressed so much further. Davey Richards got that theme ‘in the divorce’ so to speak – and Eddie went on to carve out his own singles legacy, won a World Title, put on classic matches and so forth. I think going back to using could now be perceived as ‘Davey’s music’ represents a step backwards and hints, once again, that he is the secondary partner. I thought the whole point of the 2013 Wolves is that they are now a partnership of equals – reunited friends, both former World Champions and so forth. Like I said, it’s a minor thing, and I understand that he probably likes the song, and wants to show solidarity and continue the implication that the Wolves are more focused on winning back the Tag belts than singles success this year…but yeah, personally I think it’s compromising some of his own identity and he should have kept his individual entrance theme.

Eddie Edwards vs Taiji Ishimori
A lot of the NOAH/ROH crossover to this event has been downplayed since Marufuji (who, as one of NOAH’s top stars and few significant remaining draws, has a lot more name value) pulled out through injury. But their GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion is still here, and he faces a regular NOAH gaijin tonight in Eddie Edwards. These two will have crossed paths before, and Eddie has gone on record as saying he wants to prove that he’s worthy of a shot at the championship Ishimori currently holds. A win here in his home promotion might do enough to convince the NOAH office…

I wish Kevin Kelly would stop referring to this as Ishimori’s ROH debut – as it isn’t. According to the Tale Of The Tape he’s only 5’6. He gets the first takedown with a satellite headscissors, then rolls through the ropes trying to kick Eddie as he rolls to the outside. Running headscissors sends him back out there, and Edwards can’t live with Ishi’s speed in the early minutes! MOONSAULT OFF THE RINGPOST TO THE FLOOR! Nigel thinks Taiji is under pressure tonight to live up to the legacy of talents like Morishima, KENTA, Marufuji, Kobashi, Shiozaki and Nakajima, who have come from Japan and produced stellar matches in ROH rings. He tries a slingshot move, but only propels himself into a jumping enzi from Die Hard. ELBOW SUICIDAAAAAA! That was Samoa Joe-esque Eddie! For the first time he’s able to slow the pace, either grounding Ishimori or pinning him in the corner to hammer at his chest with big chops. Backpack Stunner nailed for 2…and he floats it into an early Achilles Lock. Ishi escapes, and gets right back to his feet ready to trade strikes with the former World Champion. HANDSPRING CORKSCREW ENZI! Eddie didn’t even see that coming! He gets 2 with a flying double knee strike. Handspring attempted again, but this time Eddie catches him and counters with that back suplex. Machine Gun chops, Kobashi-style, reduce Ishimori to an exhausted, red-chested mess in the corner…but he is dragged out into a fisherman buster. Die Hard blocked, as is a German suplex! TOMBSTONE LUNGBLOWER by Ishi! He gets a close nearfall with a running soccer punt. ROPE RUN SUPER RANA…COUNTERED WITH THE BOSTON KNEE PARTY! And without even pausing for breath they fly into a back and forth nearfall sequence. SUPERKICK DUEL! Taiji drops Edwards on his neck with a reverse rana…but Die Hard NO SELLS it to hit a lariat! Both men are running on empty after going at breakneck speed for so long, but are cheered to the rafters as they get back to their feet and start stiffing lumps out of each other once again! Ishimori heads to the top, but 450 SPLASHES INTO EDDIE’S KNEES! Edwards takes Ishimori back to the turnbuckles. TOP ROPE SPRINGBOARD SUPER RANA NAILED! DIE HARD DRIVER! He wins at 15:40

Rating – **** – I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this. I’ve seen some ratings calling it an MOTYC, and some calling it a painfully over-rated spot-fest. I’m somewhere in the middle I guess. I’ll defend them and say that I don’t think this was just a simple and shameless spot exhibition. A lot of the match was based around Ishimori’s high spots, but that’s what he is. That’s how he works. They made it work in the match by having Edwards play the more methodical ‘technical wrestler’, eventually able to ride out the storm of Taiji’s explosive offence to hit his high impact moves and get the win. When he appeared at ROH’s last Japan shows I was keen for ROH to try to bring Ishimori to the US for an extended stint (as we saw with KENTA, Morishima and Shiozaki in the past). Gabe Sapolsky even confirmed that they had initial discussions with NOAH around making that happen too. Sadly the climate in Japanese puroresu has dramatically changed since then and, with NOAH no longer the force they once were they really can’t afford to let anybody spend much time in the United States, let alone a terrific talent like Ishimori. Hopefully, despite Marufuji’s injury, this ppv did enough for the ROH/NOAH relationship that we might see NOAH talent head back to ROH at some point.

Matt Taven vs Mark Briscoe – ROH TV Title Match
As we saw a few weeks ago on TV, Mark beat four other ROH stars to earn this opportunity at the controversial reigning TV Champion. Taven surprised everyone when he beat Adam Cole to win the belt, and despite being constantly eclipsed by Truth Martini and his circus of Hoopla, he still has the gold and nobody has come that close to taking it from him. Will we see the Briscoes, so long kings of ROH’s tag division, standing proud with both the singles titles in Ring Of Honor?

Taven can barely even get in the shot during his own ring entrance, with the attention solely focused on Martini and the Hoopla Hotties. Briscoe has years of experience on the champ, and for all his bizarre attitude he has absolutely no problem working circles round Taven in the first minute. Matt gets his ass kicked and takes the wise decision to roll out and seek comfort in the arms of the Hotties. Having out-wrestled him, now Mark looks to prove he can out-strike Taven too…rattling off open hand chops from all angles. Shotgun dropkick rattles the champion into the turnbuckles…and he appears to have no answer! Taven again retreats but this time doesn’t get far enough from the ring and eats a dropkick through the ropes. Suplex on the apron scores…and now Briscoe won’t even let Matt get back into the ring! He goes to the top…but after one of the Hoopla Hotties gets his attention Martini pounces to shove him off the top rope. After over six minutes of action Taven finally lands his first offensive move – an armbar DDT. He starts working over the arm, although Nigel says that’s a poor strategy since he can’t work a submission style!! Springboard corkscrew senton gets 2. His time in charge is short though, as he is caught with an urinage into the turnbuckles! Froggy Bow BLOCKED with a knee to injured arm! How’s that for strategy Nigel?? He cradles the arm and uses it for additional leverage with a rolling neckbreaker and gets another nearfall. Mark thinks about the Cut-Throat Driver, but Taven escapes…then botches an attempted springboard move. Truth Martini runs in and falls out of the ring like a goon…then the Hoopla Hotties start making out with each other! Mark Briscoe loves that, but of course it’s a distraction – and Taven pins him with the tights at 13:43

Rating – * – For the second ppv in a row, the TV Title Match absolutely stinks up the joint. I really don’t get ROH’s booking of Taven here, and Matt himself (who looked like an outstanding prospect) seems to become less and less confident with every outing. It’s like Delirious thinks that ‘he has the belt, that’s enough – he’s over’…so ROH can go ahead and completely bury Taven in every other respect. He doesn’t get any promo time. He barely gets any offence in during matches. His title win was eclipsed by the Cole/Hardy feud. He’s put in a stable where his manager and valet are TWICE as over and get twice as much interview and TV time as he does. Hell, even when they gave us a TV Title Match we wanted to see (Taven/ACH) they barely found five minutes of TV time to allocate to it. Admittedly he was very poor here, and if you’re being honest Mark Briscoe hasn’t had too many great singles matches in ROH once you take his matches with Jay out of the equation, but as I said at Supercard, it really feels like Taven is being booked to fail here. How much longer does Delirious persist with this experiment??

Davey Richards vs Paul London
Like I said during my show intro, ever since he left WWE, pretty much every time ROH has a special guest, a mystery opponent, or a surprise announcement there is always someone on a message board somewhere calling for it to be Paul London. It’s been a decade since he left the promotion, promising milk and cookies for everyone after failing to dethrone Samoa Joe for the World Championship. After dabbling with acting, neglecting his training and visibly growing frustrated and tired with the wrestling business, it seemed like Paul truly would never be seen again in a Ring Of Honor ring. But you can never say ‘never’ in wrestling, and when Naomichi Marufuji dropped out of this match with Davey, ROH promised a worthy replacement – and they absolutely did. After some time away from the ring, London has returned to the likes of PWG and ROH apparently in better shape than he’s been in since he left World Wrestling Entertainment, and refocused on producing some really quality wrestling matches to go alongside his lovably quirky ‘Intrepid Traveller’ persona. Welcome home Paul…

London, dressed in a t-shirt from his last ROH appearance, gets a hero’s welcome and his entrance lasts several minutes as he circles the ring high fiving as many fans as possible. Davey looks thoroughly unimpressed though, and even more annoyed when Paul forcibly demands his first Code Of Honor in a decade. As a first-time ever match, we begin with a feeling out process. London surprises a few by going hold-for-hold with Richards on the canvas. A dismissive pat on the head from London to Richards ups the ante, as the fans give him the ‘you still got it’ treatment. Dropsault attempted, but Davey has Paul scouted, and nearly converts it to an early submission hold. It’s countered, and once again they start trading holds and counters on the mat. Five minutes in and London looks like he’s feeling the pace, but he’s certainly got Davey rattled. Dropsault nailed second time of asking, prompting the former World Champion to leave the ring, which kills his momentum. He comes back and THROWS LONDON AT A PHOTOGRAPHER! He barely gets back to his feet before Richards is charging across the apron with the running punt. ‘Best wrestler in the world’ – Davey parodying Paul’s friend and former running buddy Bryan Danielson. Richards tries to strike at his neck, but London withstands that onslaught and somehow quickens the pace. He trips Davey (although the fans seem to think Davey f’d up), and sticks a hurricanrana. Springboard dropkick blocked in mid-air with an enzi strike…and he locks into the MutaLock (with pelvic thrusts, again sending up American Dragon). The fans are really getting on Richards, and cheer loudly as Paul spinning heel kicks him to the floor, and doesn’t pause for breath before sprinting into a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Red Star Press gets 2 for the returning veteran. He continues to be crisp with everything and lands a springboard double stomp despite being absolutely covered in sweat now. The Wolf retaliates with a bridging German suplex for 2. Alarm Clock scores…only for Paul to shake it off and nail a superkick! DRAGON SUPLEX FOR 2! LONDON SKINS THE CAT…DAVEY COUNTERS TO A TOMBSTONE ON THE FLOOR! Davey thinks that should be it…so when London crawls back into the ring he reacts angrily and delivers a running dropkick right in the stomach. FLYING DOUBLE STOMP TO THE F*CKING FACE ON THE APRON! LONDON IS KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS! Nigel, who knows about this, instantly starts calling for the match to be stopped…and Paul is lying limp and motionless on the deck. Even when he does start to move, it’s clear that he’s been knocked totally senseless as he staggers around with a vacant expression on his face. ‘Please Don’t Die’ – Toronto. McGuinness can barely watch as they fight on the top rope. Paul somehow knocks Richards away. He’s not going to try this surely? He f*cking is! LONDON STAR PRESS…DAVEY GETS THE KNEES UP! He cradles the semi-conscious London and snatches a hard-fought victory at 17:55

Rating – **** – Perhaps it wasn’t technically the ‘best’ match of 2013 so far, but this was easily my personal favourite. London rolled back the years and delivered his best performance (that I’ve seen) since he left WWE, in what was a classic and memorable match even before that double stomp incident. I loved the story. Davey thought he was going to have an easy night with a past-his-best, 30+ year old goofy former WWE guy…whilst Paul turned up determined to prove he could still go in ROH, and not diminish his legacy in this promotion. The moment where he patted Davey on the head symbolised everything this was supposed to be about. Davey spent the rest of the match absolutely furious, going out of his way to rile the fans (as they rallied behind Paul), stealing mannerisms from Paul’s former TWA training partner Bryan Danielson and going to increasing lengths to hurt Paul every time London kept coming back with offence of his own – hence the Tombstone on the floor and double stomp on the apron. On London’s end, he was at his best here. Sure he’s not as quick as he once was, but he hung with Richards every step of the way. He hit everything clean, he was crisp in his moveset – and if you want an idea of how f*cking good this guy was (and still is), and how it’s a travesty he didn’t achieve more in the WWE – check out how gorgeous his SSP is even when he’s basically unconscious and sleep-walking. I couldn’t believe when he started climbing the ropes to do it. My head says I can’t call this an MOTYC…but this was the match I personally have enjoyed the most in 2013 so far.

Davey tries to leave…but after being helped to his feet by referees and medical personnel, London stops him – and starts in the middle of the ring demanding he follow the Code Of Honor. Richards goes one better and grabs a microphone to put him over. Amazingly London manages to crack a few jokes as they share a standing ovation.

Jay Briscoe vs Adam Cole – ROH World Title Match
It was announced before Supercard Of Honor that it would be Cole getting a World Title shot at Border Wars. At that point Kevin Steen, as part of SCUM, was the champion, and Nigel McGuinness was lining up as many challengers as he possibly could in a desperate effort to get the belt away from him. It was Jay who succeeded in doing so, in the pinnacle of a fantastic 11-year career in Ring Of Honor. But winning it is the easy part, it’s keeping it and becoming a great like Joe, Danielson, Nigel (and even Steen) that is the true test of a champion. Cole was respectful, but even during Jay’s celebratory unveiling on TV as the new champ, he put him on notice that he wanted the belt when they met on ppv. Things got more heated on TV last week too, with Jay and Adam teaming up against SCUM…only for Cole to accidentally kick the champ in the face, then let Rhino Gore him…and to top it all off he used all that as cover in order for him to score a big victory and come into Border Wars with all momentum.

Briscoe starts his championship reign with some clever technical wrestling, then lands a shoulder block with such force that he seemingly removes any doubts about the health of his problematic shoulder. Interesting points on commentary as Nigel talks about the difficulties of scouting a ‘tag team specialist’ like Jay ahead of working a singles match against him. The challenger’s first strike is a jumping enzi, then an effortless tope suicida to the floor. He hits the Flying Crossbody (he’s pinned World Champions with that in the past) to boot and starts to establish control for the first time. Briscoe needs all of his power as he hoists Adam into the air for a full nelson slam. He seems to be targeting his offence on the back and neck but it’s his size and marauding offensive style that seems to be causing Cole problems, rather than any injury. The challenger has to devise a strategy to negate that size difference…and missile dropkicks the knee. Figure 4 AROUND THE RINGPOST! Kneebar applied immediately afterwards, and already its clear that the champion is struggling with the leg. To make matters worse, his injured shoulder seems to be bothering him too as his arm is starting to hang limply by his side. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness question whether Cole has the killer instinct to attack the shoulder and win the belt this evening. Using his good arm Briscoe levels Cole with a Roaring Elbow…but doesn’t inflict enough damage to keep the challenger down, and soon Adam is back up to hit a Death Valley neckbreaker. Figure 4 blocked though, and Jay absolutely plasters him with a lariat for 2. One-armed and limping now, Briscoe is clearly struggling…and he can’t get Cole up for the Jay Driller! It’s countered to a cradlebreaker for 2. DVD ON THE APRON! Cole is down and out, and the champion is on the deck alongside him fighting to get to his feet and capitalise on that. Finally he does, dropping the former TV Champion with a neckbreaker. Jay Driller lined up again…but AGAIN it’s countered – this time into the Figure 4 Leglock! The champ makes the ropes, much to Cole’s annoyance! GERMAN SUPERPLEX SCORES! He superkicks Briscoe in the back of the head then hoists him up into the Florida Key…for 2! Figure 4 again! Todd Sinclair gets bumped as Briscoe kicks free of the hold…and Steve Corino runs in trying to recruit Cole to SCUM! Nigel McGuinness thinks about going to get help…but thinks better of it! TOWER OF LONDON ON CORINO! JAY DRILLER ON COLE! Nigel’s distraction winds up costing Cole, and Briscoe retains at 19:58

Rating – *** – Solid match, but in a heatless face vs face environment, in Jay’s first defence where he had no chance of losing this was a COLOSSAL waste of Adam Cole’s first World Title shot of 2013. Many have him pegged as a future champion, but having him lose in such a limp and forgettable main event does nothing for his credentials as the top guy in the promotion. Jay is a decent worker, but he’s very injured at the moment, and has always been someone who relies on storylines and emotion rather than being the best wrestler on the roster to create tension in his matches. He’ll need to learn fast (as men like Joe, Morishima, Nigel, Danielson, Steen…and even guys like Edwards, Tyler and Roddy did) that he needs to make EVERY title defence seem like a spectacle and a big deal if he is to be a successful champion. At least the finish was interesting, with Nigel’s first physical interactions in ROH since 2009, with Cole not outright declining to join SCUM and now given a reason to start his eagerly-awaited heel turn.

Adam Cole thinks about attacking Jay Briscoe, such is his frustration at losing. He thinks better of it, but storms out angrily with questions now hanging over his future career trajectory in ROH.

Tape Rating – *** – This pay-per-view was pretty much as good as you might expect given how little time ROH had to build and hype it following on from Supercard Of Honor. The two ‘dream matches’ were well worth watching. Edwards/Ishimori and Richards/London were awesome athletic spectacles. But, as good as they were, they don’t have much to do with the current product. Steen is the hottest act they have, but they buried him in an underwhelming defeat in his first match since losing the belt. The TV Title (and TV Champion) are barely visible in a sea of Hoopla and shenanigans. The SCUM angle is starting to flounder in the absence of truly great matches (in a workrate promotion – at some point you need those), and as popular as Jay’s title win was, his weaknesses as a singles wrestler and the strange decision to take the belt from Steen and put it on a half-fit tag team wrestler who isn’t anywhere near as over were brutally exposed in the main event. There were lots of decent matches, and Ciampa’s return was a cool moment to. Certainly this was the weakest of the 2013 ROH ippvs thus far though. If you’re not an long-time ROH fan and really don’t have the same emotional investment in Paul London’s return that I had, I’d go so far as to say this show is even skippable…

Top 3 Matches
3) Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander vs Tadarius Thomas/ACH
2) Eddie Edwards vs Taiji Ishimori (****)
1) Davey Richards vs Paul London (****)

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