ROH Flyin’ High 3/22/2014

ROH 349 – Flyin’ High – 22nd March 2014

On the face of it this is just a low key house show and a mere stop-off on the road to Supercard Of Honor 8. However, this show has a lot of things going for it which make me very keen to get cracking on the review. Firstly – the card is decent, with AJ Styles facing Chris Hero in their first ROH encounter, the Briscoes facing Cole and Bennett in a rematch from Episode 131 of the TV show, Michael Elgin facing Cedric Alexander and Kevin Steen squaring off with Bobby Fish. Secondly – it’s the return to the Dayton market for the first time in a while, and a return to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds (aka ‘The Oven’ – a hugely history building for ROH) for the first time since 2011. Thirdly, this show has been attracting RAVE reviews, with many calling it the best show of the year and singling out both Elgin/Cedric and Styles/Hero for serious praise. It’s time to join Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino in Dayton, OH.

Roderick Strong/Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer vs Adrenaline RUSH/Caprice Coleman
A-RUSH have crossed paths with The Decade on quite a few occasions recently and haven’t enjoyed much success against the controversial veteran group. They will look to reverse their fortunes tonight, flanked by an extremely motivated tag partner in Caprice Coleman. Caprice has watched Roderick Strong bully his friend and former tag partner Cedric Alexander and, as a respected veteran himself, will look to defend Cedric’s honour whilst teaching The Decade a lesson in our opening match.

The match starts with Kevin Kelly shilling some drinking water company sponsoring the show. I wish I was lying. Corino having the wrong kind of water was pretty funny though. Coleman starts for his team and holds his own with former World Champion Roderick Strong. Roddy starts complaining to Kelly and Corino about being booked in the opening match whilst sending his associates into the ring to double team Caprice. Thomas gets the tag and runs through Whitmer with the Slingblade for 2, before taking to the air and wiping out Decade’s young boy Adam Page with an elbow suicida. As fun as that was, it was ultimately pointless and TD is promptly dragged back into the ring for a 2-on-1 assault by Whitmer and Jacobs. Decade have Tadarius isolated now, and make a point of rubbing it in his partner’s faces for funsies. Eventually ACH gets the hot tag and takes out all three opponents in quick succession before turning his back on Jimmy, allowing him to land the rebound cutter. Coleman in with a springboard crossbody…then the CARDIAC ARREST punch on Strong! END TIME…countered to the ROLLING NORTHERN LIGHTS! DOUBLE NORTHERN LIGHTS on Strong and Jacobs, and Coleman is still rolling through – this time to toss Roddy out of the ring! SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Whitmer blocks Coleman’s 619 around the ringpost, holding him exposed to a running double stomp by Jimmy…as TD hits the ropes for a BERMUDA TRIANGLE! RUNNING MOONSAULT BY ACH! Bless-TO puts Whitmer down into ACH’s 450 SPLASH! Jacobs breaks the fall! Strong backbreakers Coleman into the CONTRA CODE! ALL SEEING EYE ON ACH! Decade take the win at 14:16

Rating – *** – If I have half stars this would get an extra half, as this was an absolute blast to open the show. They didn’t do much with any real depth, but they worked at a terrific pace and built to an awesome crescendo of spot mayhem at the end. Caprice, in particular, looked motivated to prove he still has something to offer in Ring Of Honor. Unfortunately the downside of Coleman getting so much time to shine and Thomas working the face-in-peril segment meant that we got to see comparatively very little of ACH, who is comfortably the most over worker on his team.

BJ Whitmer steals one of the ludicrous amount of water bottles from the announce table before leaving, which Kevin Kelly hysterically screams ‘NO, NO’ at. I can’t work out if they’re being serious or not with this water sponsorship thing.

Adam Cole strolls to the ring, well ahead of the scheduled main event. He brings the news that the Briscoe brothers have just arrived at the building…and calls them both out! Out come Maria and Bennett – dressed as the Briscoes. Maria’s ‘Mark Briscoe’ outfit, complete with rubber chicken and fake teeth, is amongst the funniest things ROH have ever done. Michael ‘Jay Briscoe’ Bennett says he forfeits tonight’s main event, as well as Ladder War 5…before they give the rubber chicken the Doomsday Device. The actual Briscoes run through the crowd to put an end to the comedy, with Jay tossing Cole’s belt out of the ring so he can raise his ‘Real World Title’ instead.

Romantic Touch vs Silas Young vs RD Evans vs Kyle O’Reilly
This must be the toughest test of the ‘New Streak’ (currently 61-0) to date. It currently stands at 61-0, but RD now stands across the ring from two tough competitors as well as the masked idiot he only managed to beat last time thanks to some suspicious under-the-ring dealings from Veda Scott. I’m not sure what the motivations of O’Reilly or Silas will be – although Young is always scouting for a way to elevate himself up the card, whilst Kyle will still be fuming after dropping the Tag Titles to the Young Bucks at Raising The Bar Night 2.

Kevin Kelly gets a streamer in the eye, so leaves the table – this really is the funniest show in ages. Young looks completely unimpressed by Touch’s antics and punches him in the face when he tries to kiss him during the pre-match handshakes. Snuggle-monkey flip scores for RT, but he barely has a chance to celebrate before Evans forcibly tags his way in. Veda trips Silas from the outside, then joins commentary to inform Corino that if RD Evans wins the streak will go to 64-0, as he has three opponents. Romantic lands a somersault plancha…as Kelly stomps back to the ring (very obviously in a bad mood now) and tells Veda to ‘get out of my way’. Silas and O’Reilly are taking turns working Touch over, with Young flipping out after Rhett plants a kiss on his flips and murdering him with the backbreaker/lariat combo. The Last Real Man then starts getting massively annoyed as first RD, then Kyle blind tag him out. RT gets a hot tag to Evans whilst Young and O’Reilly argue, and the Barrister gets 2 with a northern lights bomb. He then hits an elbow smash off the apron…and scales the ropes for a diving headbutt on Kyle. Young breaks the fall by flogging him with his leather strap…and since it wouldn’t be fair to disqualify him, instead the ref decides to eject Silas from the match at 09:55. Truth Martini is out trying to comfort Young, who again dusts him off. O’Reilly traps Touch in a front choke, before flowing him into Arm-ageddon! RD Evans runs in and sneak-pins Romantic whilst Kyle applies the submission…taking the streak to ’64-0’ at 12:01

Rating – ** – I was never bored during this, and there was enough comedy to keep most wrestling fans entertained. Personally I would have kept it a little shorter, and it felt like a horrible waste of Kyle O’Reilly who has been killing it in singles matches across multiple promotions in 2014.

An angry Kyle O’Reilly rips up RD’s new ’64-0’ sign then beats him up before walking out.

Cedric Alexander vs Michael Elgin
On commentary both Corino and Kelly imply that Cedric has a lot to prove in this match. He’s made waves in ROH this year, and attracted unwanted heat from The Decade in the process. Last time we saw him, at Raising The Bar Night 2, he faced Kevin Steen in a somewhat one-sided match which he lost rather comfortably. If he wants to rise up the card, he’ll know he needs more convincing performances against the top tier guys. On the flip side, Elgin is still in the hunt for a World Title shot and can’t afford to have his momentum stalled by a loss either.

Alexander has obviously learned from the Steen match as he begins with far more aggression, looking to take the fight to his opponent rather than allow himself to be dominated. He drives Elgin out of the ring with a succession of kicks…but dives at him off the apron and gets POWERSLAMMED on the floor! Back in the ring Elgin breaks out the 60-second suplex to emphasise his power advantage. Alexander keeps getting back to his feet but is getting rattled with some heavy duty strikes now. Elgin slaps him in the face…so he kicks him in the head! A dropkick sends Unbreakable to the floor, and into position for the somersault plancha. He returns to the ring with the springboard clothesline, but can’t hit Kick 2 Kill at this juncture. Rebound DDT blocked…SLIDING DDT instead by Cedric! Standing enzi missed by him though, allowing Michael to scoop him off the canvas into a dead-lift German. Crossface briefly applied, though again Alexander showcases his resilience by quickly escaping. DISCUS LARIAT…gets a freaking ONE COUNT! LARIATOOOOOOOOO! Still Cedric refuses to be pinned! Elgin escorts him to the corner where he desperately fights out of a superplex attempt and drops the big Canadian with a sunset flip bomb. Overtime GETS KNEES! KICK 2 KILL gets 2! SO ELGIN F*CKING TOMBSTONES HIM! Alexander somehow kicks out of that, kicks Elgin in the face hits ROLLING OVERTIME FROG SPLASHES! The youngster sprints at Elgin, but runs right into the ST-Joe. AVALANCE POWERBOMB! BUCKLE BOMB! CEDRIC NO SELLS AND ALMOST PINS HIM! Alexander springboards at Elgin only to be DUMPED with another powerbomb. BACK FIST! BUCKLE BOMB! ELGIN BOMB! Unbreakable wins it at 17:38

Rating – **** – Some of the MOTY hype on this one is a little excessive, but I can’t deny it was seriously fun to watch. I particularly enjoyed the growth Cedric showed from the Steen match in Chicago, where he allowed it to become the Kevin Steen show, and looked very much a secondary worker compared to him. I also enjoyed Elgin attempting the Rainmaker, given that he faces Steen at Supercard Of Honor, with the winner advancing to get an IWGP Heavyweight Title shot (potentially against Okada) at the big ROH/NJPW shows in a couple of months time. If you’re looking for me to critique what I didn’t like about this one – I’d argue that the no-selling was borderline ridiculous. I know that, to an extent, Cedric was getting over by showing ‘fighting spirit’ in the face of a sh*t-kicking from Elgin…but it’s hard to take it seriously when the dude is popping up from Tombstones to hit frog splashes seconds later, then going on to no-sell half of Elgin’s big finishing sequence too. The finish was hot, but was a little too heavy on no-selling, and didn’t include enough credible moments where you felt like Cedric might actually get to win. Not an MOTYC for me, but still a really fun bout.

Bobby Fish vs Kevin Steen
Like O’Reilly earlier, Fish is still rebounding from losing the ROH Tag Titles to the Young Bucks at the last live event. Bobby also lost his last high-profile singles match to Jay Briscoe at the Nashville TV tapings, and with it went his lengthy undefeated run. His challenge tonight is to overcome Kevin Steen, a friend of the Young Bucks, who in turn is looking to prepare for his Supercard Of Honor showdown against Michael Elgin, with the IWGP Title shot on the line.

Steen’s weight loss is really noticeable now. Slimmer though he may be, he’s still not the equal to someone like Bobby Fish when it comes to trading holds, so he plays mind games with him instead. Fish is actually controlling the wrestling, but finding himself getting more wound up as Steen hurls abuse at him and draws significant support from the live crowd. Bobby leaves the ring sulking…and Kyle O’Reilly runs in to attack Steen. That’s a DQ at 06:04

Rating – DUD – Seriously, this is what they booked? It’s common knowledge that Steen is angling towards a WWE deal by this stage, so each of his Ring Of Honor dates is now an extremely precious commodity. Fish and Steen are two of the most talented, charismatic and entertaining guys on the whole roster. How difficult is it to give them 15-20 minutes and let them have a killer match? Isn’t that what ROH is supposed to be about? Some of what they did was funny, but this was such a colossal waste of time, which given the proximity to Steen’s contract expiry, is time they just don’t have.

reDRagon put a two-on-one beating on Steen…until RD Evans comes out for the save, looking for revenge on O’Reilly after he was assaulted by him earlier.

Kevin Steen/RD Evans vs reDRagon
Presumably the ‘New Streak’ is once again on the line here – which means it’s under serious threat considering the tag team credentials of Fish and O’Reilly. Steen now boasts victories over both members of reDRagon in singles matches this year (albeit his win over Kyle at Wrestling’s Finest was significantly better).

Veda Scott has appeared at ringside, apparently upset that RD has put the Streak in jeopardy. Fish tries to get heat by leaving the ring to do some stretches…and his look of utter DISGUST as the fans cheer him and start chanting ‘Stretch Bobby Stretch’ is priceless. O’Reilly is soon out there alongside him, provoking Steen so much that he back drops Evans at them! DOUBLE BACK SENTON by Steen and RD! Inevitably the tag team experience of reDRagon comes into play and they start isolating the Barrister. O’Reilly locks in Arm-ageddon again, although this time too close to the ropes to get the submission. RD has absorbed some serious damage to his arm and makes a despairing lunge towards his corner only to find Steen jerked off the apron by Kyle. He manages to trap both members of reDRagon into a neckbreaker/DDT combo though and at last does make the hot tag. HANGING DDT from the second rope on O’Reilly gets 2! Fish dives in with a knee strike to save his partner from a Cannonball…only for Kevin to knock them both into opposing corners and hit rolling Cannonballs – giving Corino and Kelly the chance to compare their ‘Caaaannonbaaaaall’ catchphrases. Axe & Smash into a Saito suplex from reDRagon. Arm-ageddon on Steen…but Evans makes the save! Fish duly spears him into the rails – in position for a FLYING KNEE STRIKE OFF THE APRON by O’Reilly! Steen is on the scene to hit the Apron Bomb on Fish! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! The match is won, but Steen drags RD in to continue the streak. O’Reilly attacks Evans with a chair, so it’s a DQ win at 14:53. Nevertheless, the New Streak continues!

Rating – ** – I would have gone to 3* on this had they not done another crappy DQ finish. Both of his matches tonight were undeniably fun, but Steen is such a quality talent that ROH needs to be treating his remaining dates with far more reverence. In 2003 and 2004, when Gabe knew that Bryan Danielson’s international commitments meant he’d only be a part-time act for ROH he hyped the sh*t out of him every time he appeared. At the Reborn weekend he billed Dragon as one of the best wrestlers in the world, and sent him out against Punk and Homicide, allowing him to wrestle the best part of an hour in that weekend against two of ROH’s top guys at the time. Now ROH only has a few dates left for Steen they shouldn’t be wasting him in mediocre comedic skits like this. If they want to use him to put over reDRagon, that’s absolutely fine – but give him a partner and do it in a quality match. If you book Steen vs Fish, which on paper is a GREAT match, don’t ditch it to do more ‘New Streak’ shenanigans. This is Ring Of Honor – Steen will do far more good to those he leaves behind by having great matches with them and putting them over the right way than he will by running out his dates with comedy skits.

Ramone, RD’s sign-guy, has a ’67-0’ sign. Shouldn’t it be 65-0…or being generous, 66-0 if we count it as a victory over both O’Reilly and Fish? Kevin Kelly doing the ‘Streak’ hands continues a thoroughly bizarre night for him…

Tommaso Ciampa vs Matt Taven – ROH TV Title Match
Having survived the challenge of perennial rival Jay Lethal on television, Ciampa now faces a Final Battle 2013 rematch as Taven looks to regain the belt he lost so spectacularly. Many credit Taven’s status as the longest-reigning TV Champion of all time to Truth Martini and the Hoopla – but Matt himself believes he’s now a better, and more focused wrestler without the House Of Truth. A win here to avenge the five-minute dismantling he got in Manhattan would prove that.

Taven isn’t hanging around, and clobbers Ciampa with an immediate superkick/spinning neckbreaker sequence for an early nearfall. Tommaso flees the ring…so Matt flies at him with a tope suicida. He goes for the Five Star Frog Splash, but it’s too early and he soars into Tommaso’s heavily-braced knee. Ciampa isn’t one to waste the opportunity and capitalises by driving repeated knees into the stomach and torso. The knees come into play on the floor too, with running knees to the face as Taven sits prone against the railings. Grounded abdominal stretch applied, weakening Taven to such an extent that he physically can’t lift the champion for a suplex now. He tries in vein twice…and is then DROPPED over the top ropes ribs-first before bouncing to the ground. The f*cking ‘twinkies’ thing has made it Dayton (the crowd hasn’t been great all night) much to my annoyance. Matt is really fired up and gets back into the ring screaming profanities and slapping the taste out of Ciampa’s mouth! Rebound enzi lands…and both men go down! The challenger is up first, getting 2 with a Lionsault (without selling the ribs). He then back rolls like an idiot, straight into a German suplex. Bare Knee strikes rattle Matt’s jaw but he keeps NO SELLING them and superkicking Ciampa in the face! Tommaso hits a massive clothesline putting them both on the deck again. Ciampa blocks the Climax…and eventually counters to the Sicilian Stretch (it was super ugly though). Somehow Taven escapes that but can only get halfway up the ropes before Ciampa catches him for the avalance Air Raid Crash. Project Ciampa blocked…into Angel’s Wings! Frog Splash nailed this time…but Taven collapses holding his ribs! Truth Martini is in the aisle, dragging Seleziya with him apparently. She looks set to interfere, but both Taven and Scarlett Bordeaux (who is the ring announcer again tonight) try to reason with her. LOW BLOW ON TAVEN! Truth celebrates, and Ciampa hits an ELECTRIC CHAIR INVERTED PROJECT CIAMPA (Project Ciampa 2.0 I shall now call it) to retain at 14:20

Rating – *** – Taven’s selling could have used some work, the crowd were absolutely terrible, and I wasn’t a massive fan of the finish (even though it marked an interesting progression in the Taven vs Truth angle)…but overall I still found the match a worthwhile experience. The logic both men entered the match with was extremely sound, first with Taven trying to beat the sh*t out of Ciampa like Tommaso did to him at Final Battle, and in turn with the champion trying to soften up Matt’s ribs and stomach for his finishers. The Taven haters will sh*t on this as usual, but I thought this was another solid, under-rated little match from him in 2014.

Seleziya tries to embrace Truth, hoping to be welcomed back into the House Of Truth…but he ignores her and walks off. Tommaso also leaves having to contemplate another tainted victory in his TV Title reign. Taven is left alone, but promises to end the House Of Truth for good in New Orleans.

Chris Hero vs AJ Styles
That Young Knockout Kid made his Ring Of Honor return at Final Battle looking to become ROH World Champion. Unfortunately for him he failed in two World Title opportunities against Adam Cole, so now has to fall in line and wait for another shot. His return to the company was almost immediately eclipsed by the news that AJ Styles was coming back in 2014. Thus far AJ has racked up victories against Roderick Strong and Jay Lethal, and is now making his own waves about moving towards the World Title picture. Tonight the two returning heroes do battle for the first time in an ROH ring.

Dayton is Hero’s hometown, so despite AJ’s obvious popularity the crowd is split 50/50. Kevin Kelly’s seat collapses under him on commentary. He’s having the worst night ever! I lose all sympathy for him when he shows no interest whatsoever in Corino discussing ROH’s history. The start is very slow and mat-based, which obviously suits Hero…who literally STOMPS Styles out of mid-air as he tries to quicken things up. When AJ does crank it up a notch and score with a dropkick it’s noticeable that Chris immediately leaves the ring. SPRINGBOARD ELBOW knocks Hero off the apron! On the floor Styles starts targeting Hero’s back…softening him up so much that he is powerless to prevent AJ hitting a JUMPING hurricanrana out of the corner. Kevin Kelly, who shut Corino down when he tried to talk about ROH history earlier, is chatting about the WWE Network now. BIG BOOT DESTROYS AJ as he springboards off the ropes! The match slows down again and goes back to the mat, with Hero cranking on a cravat. Styles Clash attempted by him…and when AJ escapes he hits another SICK big boot. The Phenomenal One doesn’t want anymore of those so starts kicking at Hero’s legs, only to be knocked away and force-fed an exposed knee drop to the face! ELBOW SMASH on the floor! He then connects with a sliding kick to the top of the head when Styles tries to get into the ring…and the ex-TNA man looks semi-conscious now. KNEE TO THE F*CKING JAW! The way his head snapped back there was sickening, but incredibly AJ isn’t dead – and even manages to return fire with a spinning heel kick. STIFF lariats from Styles, into a hammerlock back suplex. Roaring Elbow blocked into the springboard elbow smash for 2! Chris has to knock his opponent out of the ring to escape him…then BACKFLIPS over the ropes after him for another crazy boot to the head! They keep brawling back into the ring, where AJ lands a SNAP SUPLEX INTO THE BUCKLES! Hero rolls away to avoid the Spiral Tap…PELE KICK TO COUNTER THE DEATH BLOW! YES! Styles Clash blocked…into a RUNNING ELBOW to the back of the head! Styles looks for the Phenomenon DDT…COUNTERED TO THE CRAVAT SUPLEX! ROARING ELBOW GETS 2! REPEATED MAFIA KICKS! NO SOLD! RUNNING ELBOW! NO SOLD! DISCUS LARIAT BY AJ! BOTH MEN DOWN! CALF KILLER wins it for Styles at 19:30

Rating – ****1/2 – Wow, this was an all-out war. Some of the striking on display defied all reasoning – to the extent that I read varying reports which implied both men had been knocked out at various points. Initially Styles struggled to cope with Hero’s devastating striking power, so cranked up the pace in the hope that Hero wouldn’t be able to keep up. It worked – with Hero finally becoming so worn out he could no longer strike with the same ferocity and was ultimately tapped out. It was a simple enough central thematic device, but it was the gut-wrenchingly physical execution of it which really made this one special. AJ Styles has surely made some decent money in professional wrestling. Probably not as much as his talent deserved, and not as much as he would had he got a break into WWE a few years ago when he was really in his absolute prime…but still – a good living. Reportedly, his wife is also fairly well-off too, so he certainly isn’t struggling financially. He could live off his TNA fame on the indies and work slow, safe, sluggish matches before hitting a Styles Clash and it would send most people home happy. The fact that he would sign up for Ring Of Honor and put his nearly 37-years old body through this kind of physicality is testament to his love of the sport. This one really split critics, with some loving it and some not. Personally I have this down as my 2014 ROH MOTY thus far – over reDRagon/Bucks from the last show.

Judging from referee Paul Turner’s post-match concern, it looks like AJ Styles was hit for six during that. AJ staggers round looking very confused, but gets a hug from Hero as the crowd thanks them both. Hero gets on the microphone to put him over, and thank his hometown fans…before being attacked by The Decade. Jimmy Jacobs announces that Hero is no longer welcome in ROH rings, or in ROH locker rooms.

SIDENOTE – To date (30th June 2014) this remains Hero’s last ROH appearance as part of his comeback. Pictures recently surfaced of him looking in less than brilliant physical condition, and with Sinclair so heavily focused on how their product ‘looks’ on television, wanting their workers looking like serious wrestlers – you suspect that may have something to do with this absence. The reality is, he’s a busy guy, has a queue of independent promotions looking to book him – including being heavily featured in Gabe Sapolsky’s promotions. My guess is that he will be back again at some point, but only as and when ROH decides they have a gap in their schedule and the need for a bring-in talent which can’t be filled by the likes of AJ Styles, the Young Bucks or Christopher Daniels…which coincides with a gap in Chris’ packed schedule also.

It’s a shame, because Hero is one of my favourite workers – and a connection with a prior incarnation of ROH which is increasingly growing lost amidst a blur of Kevin Kelly commentary, ppv’s aired for free on television and SBG’s desperation to run sub-3 hour shows. He has the experience and quality that you just can’t replace by signing Raymond Rowe or Hanson…or putting any number of people on TV simply because they paid to attend one of your training seminars. Unlike AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and the Young Bucks, he’s also not someone who people will permanently associate with other promotions either. Had I been in charge of Sinclair’s ROH, I’d have been pushing hard to get him signed to a contract. Clearly whomever is making those decisions don’t view his obvious skillset and charisma enough to counterbalance his look and the cost it would take to get him to commit. For now, he has been written out of storylines

Adam Cole/Michael Bennett vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
This is a rematch of from Episode 131 of the TV show, which saw Jay score another pinfall victory over Cole to go alongside his singles victory at State Of The Art. The escalating tensions between these two teams were visible throughout that match – never more so when Bennett speared Mark off the apron and through a ringside table. With Supercard Of Honor just weeks away now, this main event represents a final opportunity for Jay and Cole to deliver some pre-emptive strikes ahead of their Ladder War 5 title unification match.

Bennett decides he wants to wrestle in the ‘Jay Briscoe’ shirt he wore earlier – a peculiar way to mark what is his first ever ROH live show main event. Jay isn’t impressed and rips it off to choke him with it. Cole tries to come to the aid of his partner as he is dominated by the Briscoes – nailing Jay with a jumping enzi from the outside. Mark is quick to seek revenge with some Redneck Kung Fu and together he and his brother start working over the World Champion instead. As the clock ticks past 8-minutes the Briscoes are completely dominant…which makes sense considering their significant experience edge over their opponents. Mark flips out and sends both of them into the guardrails…only for Bennett to suplex him on the hard floor as he looks to put him through the timekeeping table. FROGGY BOW OFF THE RAILS! Buoyed by that success, he dives at Cole inside the ring – right into a superkick. That is the catalyst for the Cole/Bennett duo to enjoy their first significant offensive advantage of the match. MATT HARDY LEG DROP nailed by Bennett! Box Office Smash blocked though, as Mark counters into the urinage. Jay tags in and dumps Adam into a full nelson slam followed by the Rude Awakening. The Briscoes call for the finish, only for Bennett to save his partner from the Doomsday Device. Cole capitalises with the DVD over the knee for Jay whilst Mark recovers on the floor having been shoved off the top rope. Just like on TV they try the Briscoe tackle spot…but this time Mark knows it’s coming and trips Bennett from the outside! BENNETT PUTS HIM THROUGH A TABLE WITH A BOX OFFICE SMASH OFF THE APRON! Just like Episode 131, and just like State Of The Art, it leaves Cole alone with Jay – and he doesn’t fancy his chances! Jay Driller countered to the cradlebreaker for 2! Florida Key blocked…then the Shining Wizard is switched into a DVD by the older Briscoe. JAY DRILLER! Briscoe pins Cole again at 19:30

Rating – *** – This certainly wasn’t a bad match by any means, although it did feel like merely an extended, slowed down version of the same match they were having on TV the same night they taped this DVD. Cole and Bennett make for a fun team, but if they are going to be teaming together longer term I’d like to see them get a chance to show more of their personality as a duo – rather than just play second-rate whipping boys to the tag team prowess of the Briscoe Brothers. Giving Jay a third clean victory over Cole is a massive feather in his cap going into Supercard, but I’d actually argue it was excessive – and went so far as to somewhat spoil the result of the Ladder War. Surely there’s no way ROH would put Jay cleanly over Cole three times in two months – THEN have him win the big blow-off match as well!

Fed up of losing matches to him, Adam Cole angrily mows down Jay with the ROH World Title belt and does the same to Mark for good measure. CHAIR SHOT TO JAY’S BAD SHOULDER! Michael Elgin comes out to run Cole and Bennett off – but the damage has already been done.

Tape Rating – *** – I have my frustrations with the booking, but it’s impossible to deny that ROH had had a really strong start to the year in terms of producing consistently decent shows. This was another strong live show, highlighted by two absolutely outstanding matches in Elgin/Cedric and Styles/Hero (the latter being my current ROH MOTY). It was actually the Steen/Evans/reDRagon segment which caused me to stick at a 3* rating rather than go to 4*. How much better would this show have been had they just given Steen and Fish 20-minutes to produce something special? How hard is it to book that?

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Adam Cole/Michael Bennett (***)
2) Michael Elgin vs Cedric Alexander (****)
1) AJ Styles vs Chris Hero (****1/2)

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