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ROH Champions vs. All Stars 2014 10/11/2014

ROH 363 – Champions vs All Stars 2014 – 11th October 2014

I like that the Champions vs All Stars match is being turned into something of a tradition under SBG. The first one in 2011 was something of a throwaway gimmick to spice up a B-show, but this is the second year running that Sinclair have really pushed the big 8-man tag as something special. Last year it headlined Glory By Honor and actually wound up being my favourite Ring Of Honor match in 2013, so my hopes are high this time around with an even stronger line-up. Unfortunately when you pile eight of your top guys into the main event, the undercard inevitably ends up suffering. I can’t deny that The Addiction’s first singles matches since returning to ROH aren’t enticing (Daniels faces Cedric Alexander whilst Kazarian has The Decade’s Jimmy Jacobs), but everything else is seriously weak. We’ve got Dojo graduates and training camp attendees a-plenty this evening it seems. We’re all set for ROH’s debut in Kalamazoo, MI. Kevin Kelly provides commentary, alongside Veda Scott for the first half and Steve Corino for the second.

Scarlett Bordeaux is ring announcing tonight and she looks insanely hot. Even Nigel McGuinness can’t resist getting his hands on her. Nigel is here to announce that Mark Briscoe has been pulled from the main event (due to poison ivy rashes apparently…make of that what you will). The self-appointed captain of the All Star team, Adam Cole, enters to run Mark down…and is promptly chased away by Mark himself (covered in bandages). Tommaso Ciampa interrupts next, and he is getting seriously awesome in the delivery of his ‘Sicilian Psychopath’ gimmick. He quite literally BEGS Nigel to be put into the main event. The Match Maker agrees – but reminds Tommaso that he is now under a zero tolerance policy in ROH. If he attacks any more referees, announcers or office staff he is fired…

Will Ferrara vs BJ Whitmer
This is a big match for the former Team Benchmark member. Ferrara enters this match with plenty of momentum after eliminating the ROH TV Champion from the recent Honor Rumble on television. Having made a serious impression there, he now looks to impress one of the founding members of The Decade. Whitmer is a guy who has been a part of this company for many years, and therefore a measuring stick for someone like Ferrara.

Whitmer objects to being used as a ‘test’ of Ferrara’s skills. He dismissively shoves the youngster around the ring, and soon grows highly annoyed at Will’s refusal to back down from the fight. The newbie shows some real crispness on a series of armdrags…before getting dragged out of the ring and aggressively flung into guardrails. To be fair, Ferrara takes his beating like a man and sells it rather well. Despite the methodical pace, the small crowd are audibly into the match thanks in no small part to Will’s conviction to his role. They pop big when he finally lands a vertical suplex and attempts a comeback. He misses a knee strike from the top…and is CRUNCHED with an elbow smash to the face. Back drop driver gets 2…so Whitmer hauls him up for rolling fisherman busters. Exploder ’98 finally finishes the plucky underdog off at 08:24

Rating – ** – There was nothing too remarkable about this, but by the same token there was nothing wrong with it. Considering this was his highest profile Ring Of Honor singles match to date Ferrara didn’t look overwhelmed, executed everything extremely well and took a hell of a beating along the way. He’s infinitely more believable and engaging in the role of ‘rookie underdog’ than Cheeseburger, and is clearly a talent ROH and SBG have decided they are going to start nurturing.

Owen Travers vs Tadarius Thomas
Kevin Kelly is in his element pushing the ROH try-out camps, training seminars and classes at the wrestling school. TD got his start in Ring Of Honor via that route, and Travers is another guy making his debut here having impressed at a seminar. Thomas has a lot on the line here. Adam Page has started to eclipse him as the superior young boy in The Decade. A loss to a debutant would be humiliating…

Tadarius shakes hands, raising more questions about where he stands within The Decade. After a respectful start he starts working in the capoeira-influenced movements which, as usual, have a bewitching effect on his opponent. Travers rides it pretty well though, and impresses plenty of people as he back flips under a roundhouse kick and hits Thomas with a dropkick of his own. TD’s striking is particularly impressive here – and since the venue isn’t particularly full you can really hear each of them echoing around the building. A running enzi knocks Owen over the guardrails and into the front row! Travers retaliates with a dropkick flurry in the corner…then an INSANE tope suicida! He leapt with such velocity there he propelled himself head-first into the barriers. Just as the crowd start getting into Travers he hits the WORST frog splash you’ll ever see. Tadarius counters it and lands the half nelson suplex…and polishes him off with a FLYING Slingblade. Knock-out kick finishes him (after a weird false finish) at 07:42

Rating – ** – This was the best Tadarius Thomas has looked in quite some time. He really struggles to convey emotions through his ring work…which actually worked to his advantage in this one where he was positioned as the ‘veteran’ and the aggressor for once. The crowd really bought into him as a lethal striker, and absolutely ate it up as he stiffed Travers all over ringside. Such was the ferocity of his beating that, in turn, Owen got some really strong babyface heat during his comeback. If you are comparing the two performances, TD/Travers was probably a slightly more entertaining match than Whitmer/Ferrara. But Ferrara looks a brighter prospect than the rather generic and sloppy Travers.

SIDENOTE – I’ve enjoyed Veda on commentary. Not everyone did, but I have found her to be insightful and rather engaging. Maybe it’s just because I hate Kevin Kelly so much that literally ANYONE sounds good (to me) in comparison

Cedric Alexander vs Christopher Daniels
This is another tough test for Cedric during what has been a break-out year for him. Since ending the C&C WrestleFactory in 2013, he has slowly climbed the ranks all year. He emerged victorious in his feud with Roderick Strong and The Decade, took AJ Styles to the limit over Death Before Dishonor weekend…and now steps into the ring with one of the men who helped build the company. Daniels works his first singles match since returning in June. Obviously as he gets older his focus is more on tag team wrestling where he has someone to share the workload…but surely he has one eye on making one last run for the World Championship. A victory over a rising star tonight is a great way of reminding everyone of the threat he still poses in singles competition.

Veda and Kevin want to know whether Cedric is upset about being overlooked for the All Star team this week. I like that they are pushing the idea that just being selected is a real honour. Daniels quickly points out that he is in the ring with a real star too, clearly looking to intimidate him. In turn Alexander TOTALLY out-wrestles Daniels in the opening minutes. He is far too quick for the veteran, and drives him out of the ring into the path of a wild somersault plancha. Daniels is a wily customer though, and catches Cedric rushing in blind to back drop him over the ropes. The Fallen Angel simply can’t match up to Alexander in an aerial game though…and he horribly misses an ill-advised flying crossbody. Not only is the younger athlete faster than Daniels – his stockier physique also means he has a pronounced strength advantage as well. The thing that Daniels possesses is intelligence though…and he uses all of it as he dials up the intensity. He repeatedly stomps on the neck and back, and shows real aggression by choking Ced in the ropes. There are no pretty moves now, it is simply a relentless assault on the neck. As a complete aside, whenever they use the hard cam you can see Matt Taven and Romantic Touch chatting backstage, presumably laying out their match for later. That is embarrassingly bush league. In the ring Daniels cranks on the neck again with a Koji Clutch…then a crossface…then a cobra clutch. Urinage slam COUNTERED to the 540 Kick, leaving both men down on the canvas. Rolling suplexes by Alexander, into a springboard DDT for 2. He then remembers to sell the neck thirty seconds later. Michinoku Driver nailed for another nearfall as he wisely tries to quicken the pace. Cedric tries to go upstairs but finds his springboard attempt CAUGHT into a running DVD! Angel’s Wings blocked with the IMPACT EXPLOSION DROPKICK! He tries it again AND DANIELS KICKS HIM IN THE HEAD! Both men are running on fumes, and we’re left to wonder whether it will be the wounded Alexander or the ageing Daniels who gives way first. CRUCIFIX KOJI CLUTCH! Cedric’s neck has to carry all Daniel’s weight. COUNTERED TO KICK 2 KILL! FOR 2! Daniels clamps onto the neck like a vice to escape the Lumbar Check…and drives Ced onto it again with a running STO. Best Moonsault Ever blocked into another IED! Urinage slam…BEST MOONSAULT EVER! Daniels finally puts Cedric away at 18:38!

Rating – **** – I forgot how awesome Christopher Daniels is at pulling out awesome midcard matches from nowhere. The guy is so smooth, and such a ring general he can work with pretty much anyone and produce an entertaining match with a solid, grounded psychology behind it. This one in particular was an absolute blast. Alexander dominated early, and was put over as too quick and too strong for the ageing Chris Daniels. Daniels had to dig deep into his veteran bag of tricks – opting to assault the neck with gusto which, of course, sets up a lot of his finishers. In the end it was believable that he could inflict enough damage to out-last someone younger, quicker and more powerful than himself. As usual Cedric’s selling left a lot to be desired, but if he keeps getting to work matches like these with the likes of AJ and Daniels, he’ll really improve quickly.

Kalamazoo is Daniels’ hometown, so he looks seriously emotional after being declared the winner. He puts Cedric Alexander and Ring Of Honor over hard too.

INTERMISSION – Steve Corino replaces Veda Scott for the second half.

Jimmy Jacobs vs Frankie Kazarian
The Decade’s Jimmy Jacobs is another Michigan guy, so will have plenty of hometown support just like Chris Daniels did in the previous match. He has made it known that he does not welcome the presence of The Addiction in Ring Of Honor. He objects to Daniels repeatedly choosing TNA over ROH over the years, and equally doesn’t welcome guys like Kazarian taking up high profile spots in this company after being released from elsewhere. Decade interference cost The Addiction the Tag Titles when they challenged reDRagon at Field Of Honor. Kaz wants some revenge for that tonight.

Jimmy Jacobs gets a massive babyface pop, and takes several minutes to take it all in. It gives you plenty of time to check out more shots of Matt Taven and a potentially mask-less Rhett Titus goofing off backstage. Kazarian tries to use his size to boss him around but, as many have before him, finds himself unable to suppress the fire of the Zombie Princess. It’s actually a Jacobs error that gives Kaz the advantage – as he attempts a tope suicida and gets THROWN into the ground instead. Jimmy is fighting hurt now, so cranks up the aggression by trapping Kaz in a tree of woe to repeatedly attack his exposed torso. Where he failed with his tope suicida earlier, once more he raises the stakes…and sails over the ropes this time into a SUICIDE DIVE! REBOUND STUNNER! Normally he hits that like a cutter, but Kaz bumped it like a Stunner and it looked f*cking awesome! Contra Code blocked with a jumping knee kick…which Jimmy no sells and charges into a spear. A second rebound cutter is attempted, but this time Frankie counters in mid-air to a jumping lungblower. TKO gets 2 for The Addiction member. End Time escaped, so Jimmy lands the Contra Code but still finds himself unable to get the job done. Frankie hits the Fade To Black for another nearfall. Man this has devolved into a succession of spots now. Flux Capacitor countered to an avalanche Contra Code. Jimmy wins at 13:27

Rating – ** – Jacobs getting a win in his hometown was a nice moment, but a lot of this match wasn’t great. I’m not sure whether they didn’t click as opponents, or they just misfired on what they were trying to do in the ring together, but this really didn’t work. I sort of got where they were going early on, with Jimmy being really fired up and getting punished for his over-enthusiasm…but any of that logic was thrown out of the window in the last five minutes so they could trade plodding spots and some of the most drama-free false finishes you’ll ever see in wrestling.

For the consecutive match we get an emotional homecoming speech. Just as Daniels did, Jimmy looks touched by the ovation he receives. His mother is holding up a little ‘Jimmy’ sign too which is cute

Romantic Touch vs Matt Taven
Earlier in the year these two seemed like friends. RT didn’t seem to have a problem with (and possibly even helped) Taven steal his gimmick to get one over on Jay Lethal. But these are different times now. At the last TV tapings (it hadn’t aired by this point) Taven was revealed as the newest member of The Kingdom. His change in attitude means there is no place for goofs like Romantic Touch in his life.

I don’t like Kingdom’s music. The mash-up of Cole and Bennett’s music sounds terrible. Taven emphasises being a heel now by booting Touch in the face rather than shake hands. Corino using kayfabe to explain why he couldn’t get over as a babyface makes for more interesting listening than anything RT does on offence. Taven makes things a little interesting with a double underhook backbreaker for 2. He is taking his time to work at a slower pace which I like, but doesn’t really do enough to fill the extra time working slower affords him. He does target the back pretty well though. Lionsault gets knees though, giving Romantic a route back into the match. He doesn’t look remotely interested in selling for Matt and easily pulls off a belly to belly suplex for 2. Even Kelly and Corino look bored by this. Climax countered to the Thrustbuster…and this time Taven barely kicks out. A fan seems to shout ‘we’re bored, stop kicking out’ as RT takes a time-out to flirt with Scarlett. Implant DDT into the Five Star Frog Splash earns Taven the win at 11:15

Rating – * – This didn’t work for me at all. As alluded to on commentary, Taven did look a lot more comfortable in this gimmick than he has doing anything else so far…but him getting vaguely more over is hardly a reason to like this match. He fell into the classic ‘new heel turn’ trap of separating each of his moves with a yell to the fans…and that really irritated me. The fact that he couldn’t think of anything more original than ‘Suck It’ to yell at them irritated me even more. However, I did like his more methodical style and the fact he worked a body part with plenty of conviction. That, coupled with how entertaining he was at Michael Bennett’s Bachelor Party make me think this could be his most successful run in ROH. Romantic Touch, on the other hand, I am totally bored of. I don’t find the gimmick funny or entertaining. I find his entrance tasteless…and most of all I don’t get where it’s going. It has been carrying on so long that fans have stopped being entertained by Touch, and don’t even care about Rhett Titus anymore. What is the plan here? Are they building to a big ‘reveal’? Is Rhett going to be stuck with this no-hoper, un-funny comedy undercard gimmick for the rest of his career? Short of Kenny King returning I just don’t think there is a spot in ROH for Titus anymore.

Jay Briscoe/Jay Lethal/Bobby Fish/Kyle O’Reilly vs Adam Cole/Roderick Strong/Tommaso Ciampa/ACH
We’ve reached main event time. Traditionally the ‘All Star’ team is comprised of top challengers to each title. In 2011 we had Davey Richards chasing Roderick Strong for the World Title, Generico who would go on to defeat Chris Daniels for the TV Title and the Briscoes chasing the Kings Of Wrestling. Same again in 2013 when Michael Elgin wanted a piece of Adam Cole, Jay Lethal was positioned as Matt Taven’s top challenger and the C&C WrestleFactory were in the mix for reDRagon’s Tag Titles. This time around the picture is far more muddied. Obviously Adam Cole and Jay Briscoe have been battling over the World Title since Death Before Dishonor last year, and we know ACH is considered Lethal’s top TV Title contender after their 30-minute draw on television. But where does that leave reDRagon, who after ending their feud with the Young Bucks at All Star Extravaganza have basically beaten everyone and are now unrivalled as the top team in the company. Roderick Strong, a.k.a. ‘Mr ROH’ has held all three titles in the past, and is presumably in this for himself. He’ll know a win over any of the champions will earn him a title shot, so it’s worth teaming with people like Cole and ACH who he has had documented issues with. The wildcard in everything is Tommaso Ciampa. A late replacement for Mark Briscoe, he is dangerously unhinged. The World Title matters so much to him that a loss in a title match to Elgin caused him to snap and assault Bobby Cruise. He started losing his mind again when Jay Lethal joined forces with Truth Martini to screw him out of the TV Title. What I’m getting at is that this doesn’t have a defined ‘champions vs top challengers’ format like the previous two, but everyone in the match has a motivation and a reason to fight.

There’s something funny about Bobby Fish proudly waving the Tag Title belts around, whilst NONE of his opponents really want to be Tag Champion anyway. ‘Captain’ Cole shows no interest in starting the match with Briscoe. Lethal forcibly tags Briscoe out (the champions aren’t getting along), then turns his back as ACH sneaks in and ELIMINATES HIM! In just 51 seconds the TV Champion is gone, and once again suffers humiliation at the hands of ACH. ACH celebrating like an idiot, whilst Briscoe openly laughs at his own partner make the moment even funnier. He takes so much time rubbing the pinfall in Lethal’s face that O’Reilly nearly eliminates him. Kyle sensibly tries to slow the pace, but simply can’t keep ACH down leading to him being trapped and isolated in the All Star corner. Cole is still frantically avoiding Briscoe…unlike Strong who badly wants to get in the ring with the World Champ – going so far as to forcibly tag Ciampa out so he can get a piece of Jay. Eventually Tommaso is left to fend for himself as the three remaining champions take turns working him over. ACH takes a beating as well, particularly from reDRagon who have cruised through the first ten minutes of the match. Jay remains so desperate to get a piece of Cole that he’s even willing to trade a guy his team have been working over for several minutes to make it happen. Finally we reach the fifteen minute mark and Briscoe can wait no more. He leaves the ring to brawl with Adam on the outside, kick-starting a mass brawl around ringside. Ciampa hits Briscoe with a Bare Knee Strike…as ACH wipes out both members of reDRagon. Once again ACH celebrates wildly…pissing off his own team so much that Cole PUNCHES HIM IN THE FACE!

That argument with his own team-mate leads to ACH being trapped in the ring with both the Tag Champions for several minutes. Tommaso finally comes in to make the save, looking wildly unstable as he storms through everyone with some savage striking. He wants a piece of Jay…and after wearing the World Champion down with some brutal elbow strikes FINALLY Adam interacts with Jay. He attacks from behind and drags him to the floor to decimate him against the rails. In the ring Tommaso counters Axe & Smash with a KNOCK-OUT KNEE STRIKE! Fish tosses a Tag belt in the ring…for O’Reilly to PULL AN EDDIE GUERRERO! He hands the belt to Ciampa then hits the deck, tricking Sinclair into disqualifying Tommaso at 26:40. That was amazing…but unfortunately they pulled the trick on a guy who isn’t really in a mental state to comprehend things. Tommaso goes on a rampage and lays out EVERYONE IN THE MATCH with te title belt. Nigel McGuinness enters the fray looking to calm the Psychopath down, and with the threat of ‘zero tolerance’ hanging over him Ciampa walks out. The action restarts with Cole taking out Briscoe with a tope suicida, and inside the ring ACH desperately escapes Chasing The Dragon. Strong comes to his aid, and joins forces with Cole to cheat on an abdominal stretch. ACH stops them because he wants to win with honour…which would make a lot more sense if Roddy hadn’t been falling out with his Decade team-mates at the same time because they wanted to cheat and he didn’t. A double dragon screw from Kyle folds Roddy and ACH on top of each other…and for the first time Jay and Cole are legal in the ring together.

Rude Awakening gets 2 for the World Champ. He then feeds him into a reDRagon backbreaker/knee drop combo. Chasing The Dragon countered with a cradlebreaker! DEATH BY RODERICK! END OF HEARTACHE! Strong pins Kyle at 36:34. He barely gets time to celebrate before Bobby rolls him up with the trunks, pinning him at 36:41. SUPERKICKS by Cole! He drags Fish in position for the BEST 450 EVER! ACH eliminates Bobby at 38:33. Much to Cole’s delight it now means he has a 2-on-1 advantage over his big rival Jay Briscoe. He hovers over ACH’s shoulder like Emperor Palpatine manipulating Anakin Skywalker, and somehow convinces him to help in double-teaming Jay. The announce team discussing how Adam Cole used to follow rules and ‘play nice’ just like ACH is now which is a pretty neat touch. Inside the ring Briscoe hammers ACH in the corner…before Cole attacks him from behind KNOCKING ACH THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! As Todd Sinclair checks on him Cole gives Jay a nut shot and lines him up with a chair. Mark Briscoe rescues his brother! POISON IVY DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Cole is eliminated at 43:42! ACH can barely stand, but he realises this is the opportunity of a lifetime so he shakes off the attentions of the referees and re-enters the ring to take on the World Champion. HE SPITS IN JAY’S FACE! Despite a barrage of punishment coming his way, he ducks the champ causing him to trip over the ropes. RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! 450 SPLASH MISSES! JAY DRILLER BLOCKED…JACK-KNIFE PIN GETS 2 FOR ACH! JAY DRILLER NAILED! Briscoe wins at 48:38!

Rating – **** – I thought last year had more drama and had a better conclusion with the Elgin/Cole stuff, but this was still a great match. I’m so pleasantly surprised that ROH have kept the pedal down on ACH’s push even after he let people down with travel issues into All Star Extravaganza 6. His performance in this match, and the way he kept eliminating more established guys, really kept the crowd on their toes. It was almost like a Walking Dead situation, where ACH’s success meant you felt like nobody was safe – even the main characters. He held the match together, building to that frantic exchange of spots at the end. He was the least credible talent as the match began, yet thanks to his own work (and the help of those in the match with him) people bought him as a threat to the World Champion just fifty minutes later. He was brilliantly complemented by some wildly entertaining stuff from reDRagon (the Eddie Guerrero ‘Cheat 2 Win’ spot was awesome) and the terrific Ciampa angle.

I really liked the Cole/Briscoe feud advancement as well. It would have been such an easy booking decision to have Cole win here, to put the rubber stamp on his eventual World Title Match. I am happy Delirious chose to go in another direction and keep people guessing. Cole has been losing pretty much constantly since June. He lost the title to Elgin, he lost his rematch at Field Of Honor, he fell to AJ Styles at the last iPPV too. After failing to win this match, and failure in the Honor Rumble on TV – he seems to have blown his chances of forcing his way back into the World Title picture. He is now at rock bottom, and the journey back into title contention should be an extremely interesting watch. Cole/Briscoe is the most obvious and predictable (yet bankable) major title match he has at his disposal. At least Delirious is making the journey to their inevitable showdown interesting.

Jay Lethal and Truth Martini sprint back to the ring to assault the exhausted ACH. Jay Briscoe has a conscience and bails ACH out, but the damage has been done. Lethal and ACH meet again for the TV Title at the end of October at television tapings in Florida.

Tape Rating – *** – Between the opening segment, the 18+ minute Daniels/Cedric match and the lengthy main event, well over half this show is occupied by the ‘good stuff’. Sure there are some crappy matches on the undercard featuring guys who have bought their way into ROH rather than earning it, sure the Kazarian/Jacobs match was a disappointment, and of course Romantic Touch sucked. But the total time for all the bad stuff probably isn’t even sixty minutes. Well over half this show is extremely good. Not worth forking out for shipping charges and an extra $5 for a hard copy DVD perhaps…but in 2014 ROH, I was happy enough to see just two matches take up half the show, and get plenty of time to tell compelling, realistic and engaging stories. That was enough for me to give this a mild recommend.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jimmy Jacobs vs Frankie Kazarian (**)
2) Christopher Daniels vs Cedric Alexander (****)
1) Jay Briscoe/Jay Lethal/reDRagon vs Adam Cole/Roderick Strong/Tommaso Ciampa/ACH (****)

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