ROH Global Wars 5/10/2014

ROH 351 – Global Wars – 10th May 2014

We’ve made it to the first of ROH’s two big crossover shows with New Japan Pro Wrestling. The shows are a seriously big deal, and a major coup for Ring Of Honor that they’d found themselves in a partnership with what is currently the largest puroresu promotion in Japan. A partnership so strong, in fact, that NJPW were willing to send all it’s biggest stars over to the US. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura and Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger are all on the show tonight – joined by the likes of Jado & Gedo, Takaaki Watanabe from Japan, plus the likes of Karl Anderson, the Young Bucks, the Forever Hooligans, the Time Splitters (meaning an ROH return for Alex Shelley) – and current IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles. Being completely honest, I don’t actually think ROH did enough to market what a huge deal this was. They got some serious coverage online of course – but those are fans ROH already has. Aside from a few commercials on the TV show, thus far it’s not even been mentioned that NJPW’s biggest stars are coming to Ring Of Honor. Thankfully that’s less important this evening – since the card is basically split in half, with 50% of it promoted by ROH (which they’ve done very well) and the other 50% featuring New Japan matches. Adam Cole defends the ROH World Title against Kevin Steen in the headliner, and we also have the TV Title on the line as Jay Lethal faces all his top challengers in one match. The Young Bucks defend their IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles against the Hooligans and the Time Splitters in the pick of the matches New Japan has put together. The two companies lock horns in more serious inter-promotional battles next week in New York. Tonight we’re in Toronto, CA with Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino.

Michael Bennett vs ACH
At this point Bennett was getting crazy heat from segments of the hardcore fanbase – because he was the man selected to face Hiroshi Tanahashi at War Of The Worlds. Despite years of credible service as a decent performer in ROH, it seems people still don’t see him as a strong worker and he was well down the list of guys they wanted to see against one of NJPW’s best. The negative attention, however, is something he now revels in, and he will bask in the hatred of the fans tonight as he looks to prepare for Tanahashi with a victory over ACH.

Bennett has a bandaging under his knee pad – and it appears that ACH has noticed it as he goes right after it. Even after absorbing a nasty punch to the face, ACH grounds his opponent with a dropkick to the knee. It’s clearly a shock to Michael that his high-flying opponent has opted for such a grounded strategy so he’s firmly on the back foot. Maria Kanellis gets involved, distracting Bennett’s adversary, allowing him to hit a SPINEBUSTER ON THE FLOOR! He stays on the back even though he is considerably handicapped thanks to ACH’s attack on his leg. Box Office Smash gets 2 – perhaps because Bennett paused to grab at his knee before covering. ACH blocks a Twist Of Fate attempt (Bennett is doing Matt Hardy’s moves to get heat now too)…and drops him again with a dragon screw. DOUBLE STOMP to the bad knee! Maria is distracting referee Todd Sinclair again, causing ACH to pursue her onto the apron. Bennett gives chase to superkick him…but ACH then moves causing him to SPEAR MARIA ON THE APRON! AIR JORDAN BY ACH! And he even sells the back a little as an afterthought! 450 Splash misses though, with Bennett steamrolling through him with another spear. Pepsi Twist misses…and countered to a kick to the face from ACH. Bennett shunts the ref into the top rope to crotch ACH as he climbs the ropes and wins with a RUNNING DOMINATOR at 07:52

Rating – *** – I could go on about how I wished they’d have gotten more time (believe me, I’ll do that plenty of times over these two ROH/NJPW shows) but actually, in less than 8-minutes these two accomplished a hell of a lot. ACH looked fantastic, combining some really crisp limb work to provide added depth to his usual assortment of aerial antics – and I appreciated his attempt to sell Bennett’s back work too. And in contrast to him, Bennett is really good as a heel heat magnet and an extremely competent worker despite what some portions of ROH’s fanbase think about him. His leg selling was, like ACH’s, a little patchy but mostly decent, he worked very hard to let ACH look good, and ultimately picks up a commanding win to showcase his skills to the NJPW office before he gets to face Tanahashi in the Hammerstein Ballroom. I couldn’t ask for much more from an opening match, bar a couple of extra minutes to give it room to breathe.

Takaaki Watanabe vs Michael Elgin
The fruits of ROH’s relationship with NJPW isn’t just the two crossover shows. Watanabe, who has been around the NJPW scene for a couple of years, is being sent over to the States to gain some more experience (presumably ahead of a potential expanded role for him domestically in New Japan), much as we have seen other Japanese promotions do in the past with the likes of KENTA, Takeshi Morishima, Go Shiozaki and Shingo. He’ll be on a number of ROH events in the coming months, and has a huge opportunity to make an instant splash when he faces the #1 contender to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship tonight. It’s our only inter-promotional contest of the evening, so both men battle for pride. Elgin, in particular, needs to score a morale-boosting win over a New Japan talent before challenging AJ Styles for the top prize next week.

Watanabe is a thick dude but even he can’t withstand a shoulder tackle from the ROH athlete. Elgin showcases his power as he lifts him into the stalling vertical suplex, then simply punts him in the face to take him off his feet again. ST-Joe dumps Watanabe once more, with NJPW’s representative struggling to get out of the blocks. He crawls out of the way of Elgin’s corkscrew senton and succeeds in landing his first major offensive strike with a running neckbreaker. DIVING CODEBREAKER by Elgin! That’s new. Wata blocks a lariat though, lifting him into a delayed back suplex for 2. Elgin responds by violently elbowing him in the back of the head…and dumping him on it seconds later with the dead-lift stalling German suplex. Takaaki kicks Elgin’s legs away to prevent him landing the dead-lift superplex, and hauls him out of the corner with an elevated lungblower. Unfortunately he jumps off the top into a BACK FIST! DEAD-LIFT BUCKLE BOMB! Elgin Bomb wins it at 06:47

Rating – ** – Basic and slightly one-sided, but it was brief enough that it didn’t offend anyone. The Canadian crowd did themselves real credit as they were very lively for this – when they really didn’t need to and weren’t expected to. Watanabe seems to have enough power and poise that he could provide some interesting matches if he sticks around in ROH for any length of time.

BJ Whitmer/Jimmy Jacobs vs reDRagon vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
Although they aren’t on the line here, the ROH Tag Championships are at the epicentre of this triple threat tag team clash. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are first in line to face the Young Bucks, and get their title shot at War Of The Worlds. From there contendership to the tag belts is very much up for grabs. The Decade haven’t yet made a play for any gold since forming, but as former Tag Champions themselves, we know Whitmer and Jacobs are more than capable of bringing the belts to their faction. And whilst the Briscoes haven’t necessarily been focused on tag competition over the last 18-months, they are an experienced and dangerous unit, and have held those titles more than anyone else. They certainly wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to hold them again.

The Decade don’t shake hands with anyone since reDRagon are newer talents hogging their glory, whilst the Briscoes are veterans who don’t believe in their cause. Mark’s Redneck Kung Fu gets the better of O’Reilly and Fish’s MMA-influenced striking in the first minute before his big brother joins him to demonstrate just how fluent the Briscoes can be – even with multi-time former Tag Champions like reDRagon. Whitmer gets the same treatment, despite blind-tagging and getting the jump on Mark. Jimmy Jacobs comes to his partner’s aid, cheap-shotting Jay then spearing Mark to give The Decade the advantage. Powerbomb senton gets 2 on Jay as they look to isolate the former World Champion. With him now beaten down reDRagon are more than happy to tag themselves to get their licks in. Mark tags to hit the Uncle Mule Kick on Kyle, and a mafia kick on Fish. Urinage on Jacobs gets 2…so Whitmer runs in with an Exploder! Axe & Smash from O’Reilly to BJ…before Jay hits the Rude Awakening on him. Fish drives Jimmy’s face into the turnbuckles as he attempts a spear…so Decade give him the ALL SEEING EYE! Mark saves the match with a springboard dropkick. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY MARK! MILITARY PRESS DVD from Jay to Jacobs! Doomsday Device sends Jacobs flipping through the air, giving the Briscoes a popular victory at 07:53

Rating – *** – I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this, but it was actually a surprisingly enjoyable three-team sprint. Less than 8-minutes wasn’t long enough for them to accomplish much else of course, but as with Bennett/ACH earlier they definitely made the most with what they had. All three are extremely experienced duos and it showed in a number of seamless exchanges.

Roderick Strong vs Cedric Alexander
This is a Supercard Of Honor 8 rematch, demanded by Cedric. The ROH/NJPW shows look set to be huge for him as he looks to overcome his arch rival tonight, then go on to Manhattan where he is scheduled to face NJPW’s Kazuchika Okada. He has been bullied by The Decade, Strong in particular, since Wrestling’s Finest in January when he defeated Andrew Everett with his Lumbar Check backbreaker. They ejected him from the locker room in San Antonio, cheated to beat at Supercard, and at the New Orleans TV tapings publicly humiliated him. It was more than Alexander could stand, and he decided to cost Roderick a match with Tommaso Ciampa before laying down the challenge tonight. Match Maker Nigel McGuinness has helped him out too – by banning the rest Decade from ringside.

Roddy is so keen to get the fight started that he came out during the pre-match video package, with Cedric sharing his enthusiasm…and sprinting to the ring into a HEAT SEEKING MISSILE! Strong doesn’t take kindly to Alexander using moves of his old tag partner Austin Aries, and looks to batter him with strikes in the corner. A jumping enzi strike hangs him upside down in the ropes so Roderick can hit repeated, unprotected kicks to the face! Before Ced can even get back to his feet Strong is on him again, driving knees straight into the jaw. He starts dissecting the back to go alongside his continual violent strike assault – and converts an abdominal stretch into a pumphandle backbreaker for 2. Alexander counters the Olympic Slam though, and somehow lifts his hurting body into a corkscrew enzi kick. Showing his sheer frustration at months of Decade bullying he psychotically headbutts Roddy, knocking him loopy so he can hit the springboard lariat. MICHINOKU DRIVER for 2! Kick 2 Kill blocked into a cradle backbreaker…but in response Alexander counters the urinage backbreaker into a crucifix pin. They head upstairs for Strong to drop Cedric down onto his hurting back again with a superplex. STRONGHOLD! Followed by a knee to the gut when Alexander has the audacity to escape. The youngster is starting to fade now…but defiantly slaps Roderick then SPITS IN HIS FACE! IMPACT EXPLOSION DROPKICK! KICK 2 KILL! He hits his rebound enziguri strike…but the split second he loses dragging his injured body into the pinfall is enough to cost him victory. Double stomp misses, so Strong hits DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK…COUNTERED TO THE LUMBAR CHECK! SMALL PACKAGE! CEDRIC WINS! He scores a huge victory at 14:20

Rating – **** – I still feel like they have a better match in them, but this was a hell of a fight. It felt like they were determined to have the match they weren’t allowed to have at Supercard Of Honor 8 due to the sh*tty time allocation they got then. They were both very much on form tonight, playing their roles in the match to a tee. The aggression was kicked up from New Orleans on both sides, with Roderick amping up his bitter, angry veteran playbook – and Cedric bringing significantly more fire as the underdog babyface looking to defy the odds. He probably uses them regularly anyway, but I enjoyed Alexander using Austin Aries’ moves against his former Generation Next stable-mate, and felt it added a subtle extra layer to what they were doing. The flash pin finish gives Strong an out, and the post-match angle they are about to run will absolutely lead to a rubber match which I keenly anticipate.

Cedric Alexander barely has time to celebrate before BJ Whitmer, Jimmy Jacobs and Tadarius Thomas are in the ring assaulting him. Whitmer orders TD to kick him in the face as the rest of the group open up some steel chairs in the middle of the ring. END OF HEARTACHE THROUGH THE CHAIRS!

Young Bucks vs Forever Hooligans vs Time Splitters – IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Title Match
Matt and Nick have a tough couple of weekends ahead of them in ROH. Next week they face a rematch against reDRagon for their ROH Tag Titles, whilst tonight they face two of their arch rivals for the IWGP Jr. Tag straps. We’ve seen the Bucks and the Hooligans cross paths in ROH before, but it’s the first time we’ve seen the Time Splitters. It means an ROH return for Alex Shelley, who has produced multiple classic matches with Generation Next, The Embassy and the Motor City Machine Guns – without ever really unlocking the limits of his true potential in this promotion thanks to international and TNA commitments. His partner is Kushida, who made his Ring Of Honor debut at All Star Extravaganza 5 last summer.

Shelley gets a rousing ‘welcome back’ chant as he starts the match with Matt Jackson. He uses his bewitching technical skills to prevent Matt from building any kind of speed. Koslov hits a spinning backbreaker on Nick…prompting him to tag out to Kushida. The exchange between he and Romero is ridiculously fast. Time Splitters dish out the double teams, sending all their opponents sprawling. A Poetry In Motion elbow smash takes Koslov out…so he angrily drags Shelley out of the ring into the path of a flying knee strike from Rocky. Cossack Kicks get 2, and it’s noticeable that the Young Bucks are happily letting the Hooligans and the Splitters fight amongst themselves now. With Alex worn down they decide it’s time to strike – hitting an assisted Shiranui on him. Kushida lands a handspring double heel kick to the Hooligans but is denied the chance to dive outside by Nick Jackson. TOP ROPE SUICIDE DIVE TO THE FLOOR from Kushida! FROG SPLASH/STANDING MOONSAULT COMBO gets the Time Splitters a nearfall. They line up a Doomsday Shiranui only for Romero and Koslov to make the save with the Battering Ram. Shelley and Kushida miss stereo pescados, before Nick Jackson hits a RUNNING SKY TWISTER PRESS TO THE FLOOR! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY KOSLOV! SUPERKICK from Nick to Koslov! SUPERKIIIIIICK from Matt to Romero! The Time Splitters then cave in Matt’s face with a camel clutch/cartwheel dropkick combo! Sliced Bread #2 COUNTERED TO THE SPIKE TOMBSTONE by the Bucks! Shelley appears to be dead after that! DOUBLE SUPERKICK knocks Romero through the ropes to the floor! DOUBLE SUPERKIIIIIIIIIIICK on Koslov as he springboards in! MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK! After 12:20 of complete chaos, the Young Bucks retain.

Rating – **** – The craziest part about this match is that, given the skillset of the three teams involved, this was nothing more than a routine match for them. They didn’t do much more than toss around their standard spots in a fairly simplistic spotfest. The reason this was so good was that the six competitors are so fast, so skilful and so fluent in their ability to execute their skills. In effect they pretty much stole the show without really trying that hard. This was a 100mph riot, and one of the highlights of the Global Wars/War Of The Worlds NJPW Ring Of Honor tour.

The second half of the show is all set to start, with Nigel McGuinness joining Kelly and Corino on commentary. They are immediately interrupted by RD Evans. The New Streak is now at 104-0, and he has made his way to Canada to continue it tonight. His opponent is ring announcer Bobby Cruise – who is promptly beaten to take it to 105-0.

Shinsuke Nakamura/Jado vs Hiroshi Tanahashi/Jushin Liger
This is the first of two standard tag bouts booked by the New Japan office to showcase their talent here in Canada. Nakamura and Tanahashi are two of the biggest names in contemporary puroresu, so seeing them make their Ring Of Honor debuts tonight (alongside Jado, who is responsible for managing things from a NJPW perspective with Gedo on this tour) is a genuinely historic moment. They are joined by the legendary Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, who has appeared in Ring Of Honor before, and boasts a victory over iconic ROH wrestler Bryan Danielson.

Despite Nakamura and Tanahashi being in this match, it’s the 49 year-old Liger who is the most popular guy in the ring. It’s the aforementioned duo who begin, bringing their lengthy rivalry to the United States. It doesn’t take long for Nakamura’s offbeat, aggressive style to come to the fore – handing his team the early advantage. Liger tags in to a thunderous ovation, dishing out baseball slides to both opponents. Jado eats a Shotei, so he hits ‘Thunder’ in the balls behind the referee’s back. Nakamura and Jado isolate Liger, realising that his age makes him the weak link of his team. To his credit Liger takes everything they have and still takes Nak out with a satellite backbreaker before making the hot tag to Tanahashi. He flattens Nakamura with a somersault senton for 2…only for him to hit back with a running knee to the stomach. Tanahashi hits a basement dropkick to block the Boma Ye, so Jado sprints in and grounds him with a Crossface. When Tanahashi escapes that Jado lugs him up the ropes for a hanging DDT…bringing Liger in to make the save with another Shotei. Despite being almost 50 years old Liger still has enough in him to sprint across the apron into a CROSSBODY TO THE FLOOR! Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow on Jado for the win at 11:34

Rating – ** – Exciting as it was to see these four in an ROH ring, this was never going to be a particularly great match. Tanahashi and Nakamura, in particular, are massively valuable commodities for New Japan. Internet reports also suggested that Tanahashi made this trip despite being rather banged up – so we were never going to see these high profile talents truly cut loose in front of a thousand people in Canada. Regardless, it was still plenty of fun seeing them hit some of their signature spots in a Ring Of Honor ring, and the response Toronto gave Jushin Liger was genuinely very special. The reality is that the best chance of good matches out of NJPW’s top stars on this trip will be when they are in the ring with ROH guys who will bring significantly greater workrate. That said, the reaction the Toronto fans gave to Jushin Liger was incredibly special.

Jay Lethal vs Silas Young vs Matt Taven vs Tommaso Ciampa – ROH TV Title Match
This is a tough challenge for new Television Champion Jay Lethal, as he faces all his top contenders in one match. The man he screwed over to take the TV Title from, Tommaso Ciampa, is in this match. As the new centrepiece of the House Of Truth, he also becomes a target for Matt Taven – who has issues with Truth Martini and will be gunning for revenge after getting fireballed in the face in New Orleans. Silas has considered himself a top contender to the TV Title for sometime, and became greatly annoyed when Truth Martini’s attempts to recruit him to the HOT repeatedly sidetracked his own quest to win that championship. He is the only man in the match never to have held the belt before, a fact which will only fuel his already colossal bad mood.

The match starts with Ciampa violently assaulting Lethal…then Cactus clotheslining Young to the floor for good measure. Jay takes a knee to the face with such force that Tommaso ends up in the crowd – and when he tries to climb back Silas pounces for a SUPERPLEX OFF THE GUARDRAIL! Taven doesn’t want to be outdone and takes to the air with a running suicide dive. Unfortunately he then gets distracted by Martini, allowing Lethal to toss him into the barricade. Young crotches him on the top rope, hitting a springboard McLariat to the back of the head soon afterwards! Poor Matt’s ordeal continues as Jay dropkicks him in the chest as he comes off the top. Lethal Combination on Ciampa! Pee Gee Waja Plunge on Lethal…only for Taven to break the fall! Tommaso knees him in the face before hitting the AVALANCHE AIR RAID CRASH on Silas. Amazingly, Young recovers from that and absolutely decapitates Lethal with a running lariat. Taven looks to capitalise; landing the Angel’s Wings on the champ. TOP ROPE MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Truth Martini pops up trying to interfere – so Matt throws Lethal at him! LETHAL INJECTION as Taven tries to get his hands on his former manager! Jay retains at 07:26

Rating – *** – They got royally screwed for time, but made the best of it with another fun spot parade. I really like the idea of a heel, HOT-aligned Jay Lethal as TV Champion, and I hope Delirious has plans to keep the belt on him for some time – whilst giving him a decent feud or storyline to get his teeth into. Anyone of these guys would make a great long-term rival for his belt.

Michael Elgin replaces Nigel McGuinness on commentary for the next match, delivering a painfully awkward and atrocious performance on the mic.

AJ Styles/Karl Anderson vs Kazuchika Okada/Gedo
The heat between Okada and the Bullet Club is red hot coming into this match. It was just one week earlier that AJ, with the help of his Bullet Club comrades, robbed Okada of his IWGP Heavyweight Championship. This is the former champion’s first opportunity to get some payback.

Okada demands to start with AJ, and gets his wish. Their exchanges are tense with Kazu looking to establish control over the man he feels undeservedly beat him for NJPW’s top prize. In the end he’s so dominant he dismissively dropkicks Styles over the top rope and out of the ring. Anderson tags himself in does much better – throwing the former champion out of the ring and decimating Gedo with a big spinebuster. The Bullet Club decide they are better off isolating Gedo – and use his prone body to taunt Okada with. Rainmaker has to wait patiently for a tag, but when he does he quickly tears through Karl with a DDT then a slingshot somersault senton. Kryptonite neckbreaker nailed…into the flying elbow drop! The Rainmaker is ducked…Ace Crusher blocked…Rainmaker blocked again! Styles comes to Machine Gun’s aid with his springboard elbow smash, but gets his face pelted with strikes as he attempts the Styles Clash. A flapjack buts the IWGP Heavyweight Champion down into the path of a basement superkick from Gedo. Pele on him! GUN STUN! BRAINBUSTER BY AJ! Karl is holding Okada, making him watch as AJ drops Gedo with the STYLES CLASH for the win at 11:47

Rating – *** – A far better match that the other NJPW tag match booked tonight, largely thanks to the dynamic performances from AJ, Okada and Anderson. Gedo knew his role as the whipping boy of the match and fulfilled his duties well, but it was the ability of the other three to carry the heat and convey the residual hatred following the previous week’s title change throughout the contest. Even a casual fan, unaware of the history, would quickly have got the point that Okada didn’t like the Bullet Club. Nothing they did was overly flashy, but again, New Japan are not going to sanction their talent going balls to the wall on an independent show in front of a thousand people in Canada. Considering they were working well within themselves this was very solid.

Styles, Elgin and Okada have an intense staredown after the match. It’s scheduled to be Styles/Elgin III for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at War Of the Worlds – but it’s clear that the Rainmaker isn’t happy at being left out of the picture

Adam Cole vs Kevin Steen – ROH World Title Match
Since he lost the title at Supercard Of Honor 7, Kevin Steen has never had his rematch. At first he was forcibly sidelined from the title picture by Nigel McGuinness, who still resented him for his actions whilst a part of SCUM. Then he was preoccupied redeeming himself by feuding with (and eventually ending) the SCUM faction in Steel Cage Warfare. Since then he’s continually petitioned for a championship opportunity – but never quite managed to secure one. He was a losing semi-finalist in the World Title tournament at Death Before Dishonor 11, and he lost a #1 contendership bout to Jay Briscoe at The Golden Dream. Finally he earned this opportunity by winning a four-man Texas Tornado main event at State Of The Art – and has been hot pursuit of Cole ever since. With Chris Hero, Michael Elgin, Jay Briscoe and even AJ Styles looking to challenge for ROH’s top prize, Steen has never let himself fall out of the equation and persistently come out in front of live crowds making the point that he wants his shot. Having survived Jay Briscoe and Ladder War 5 at Supercard Of Honor, Cole now has no more excuses – and faces a huge task in thwarting Steen’s quest to become the second 2-time ROH Champion…in the same building where he won his first title.

This has a ‘big fight’ aura that ROH so rarely achieves these days. Even Cole/Briscoe at Supercard didn’t seem as intense during the intros. Since we’re in Canada the support for Steen is massive, and the crowd roar with approval as he piles into the champion in the early going. But before the first minute is out Cole tries to attack his problematic knees. Unfortunately he can’t do enough lasting damage, and finds his ‘ding ding’ getting smashed into the ringposts. Steen even finds time to give a tribute to El Generico with mounted Hispanic punches in the corner…but he gets carried away celebrating so Cole dropkicks his knees out from under him! Knee-DT follows next and has the challenge writhing across the mat in pain. Quickly Cole reduces Steen to a one-legged man in the fight – though Mr Wrestling proves he remains a dangerous proposal still by catching Adam for a hanging DDT as he attempts a slingshot. He’s too injured to capitalise though, and is punished with a Figure 4 around the ringpost. APRON BOMB out of nowhere! But Steen collapses alongside the fallen World Champion as his knee buckles. Cole tries to crawl away…THREE MORE APRON BOMBS! KNEE-SELLING STEEN-TON BOMB for 2! That offensive flurry nearly brought him victory but it has done yet more damage to his leg. He is unable to lift Cole for the F-5 – and Adam counters him to a DVD over the knee. Cole tries to superplex Steen, who counters him into an AVALANCHE FISHERMAN BUSTER! The knee is killing him though, and he loses time grabbing it before finally pinning the champ for a 2-count. He’s limping heavily and misses the Cannonball before the knee gives out entirely as he attempts a Package Piledriver. He slumps to the canvas, leaving a gleeful Cole to apply the Figure 4 Leglock! Even when Steen reverses the hold, he has to release it because it’s still hurting his own leg. Florida Key blocked with a powerbomb…INTO THE SHARPSHOOTER! Steen collapses! Adam gets to his feet smiling in delight thinking his adversary his finished. Complacency gets the better of him and he walks right into a SLEEPER SUPLEX! Michael Bennett runs in to help. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER ON BENNETT! SUPERKICK TO THE BACK OF STEEN’S HEAD! GERMAN SUPLEX! FLORIDA KEY…FOR 2! SUPERKICK TO THE KNEE! Panama Sunrise COUNTERED to the Sharpshooter, though unfortunately for the challenger Cole is right in the ropes. The champion climbs the ropes, but Steen grabs him. TURNBUCKLE BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAA! COLE KICKS OUT! Package Piledriver blocked – into a Superkick. Cole wins at 19:35!

Rating – **** – How deflating was that finish? The match before it was superb, but holy cow did that conclusion ever KILL the crowd! After all the wild stuff they’d done to each other throughout 20-minutes of a genuinely high-quality main event it just makes no sense that a single superkick would end Kevin Steen’s title challenge. Why not at least make it dramatic with a flurry of superkicks? Or a superkick to the knee, then an unprotected superkick to the face? Come on guys – do SOMETHING! Even Kevin Kelly was caught off guard by how sudden and random it was. Excluding the Bennett interference (which wasn’t needed at all), everything before the anticlimactic finish was excellent though. Steen’s selling of the leg was good enough to provide some really dramatic moments – like his collapse when applying the Sharpshooter. Cole continues to grow into his role as World Champion and delivered one of his most complete heel performances to date. His facials were utterly brilliant, he riled the crowd up with his body language and wrestling alone (without having to resort to taunting them or posturing for cheap heat), and delivered on his skills with such gusto that people had no problem believing he could drop bombs with Steen (a significantly bigger man) down the stretch. Get rid of Bennett and chalk a better finish on it and we could have been talking about this as an MOTYC.

Tape Rating – *** – As the warm-up act to the War Of The Worlds show in New York, this was a really satisfying show. I can’t pretend I’m not still extremely frustrated with some of the stingy time allowances ROH are giving some of these matches, and the lack of workrate from the NJPW main event stars meant the second half of the show was harder to sit through – but on the whole this was a really consistent show. The Canadian fans were extremely vocal all night which obviously helps, and in the IWGP Jr. Tag Title match, Strong/Cedric and Cole/Steen they were treated to three really outstanding matches. I can’t help but feel that if they’d have cut out the intermission (WWE and TNA don’t have intermissions during their pay-per-view presentations – I understand they have merch to sell, but if you want to present yourself like one of the ‘big boys’ then you need to act like one), taken a couple of matches off the show, and given a couple of matches more time it would have been a more rewarding experience. I understand ROH is trying to streamline their product somewhat. But there needs to be just a little more substance in my opinion. At times it felt like this three hour pay-per-view was rushing past in a blur of so many brief, spotty matches that they all merged into one. In the end though, I still consider this another strong show in a remarkably consistent start to 2014 by the promotion.

Top 3 Matches
3) Cedric Alexander vs Roderick Strong (****)
2) Young Bucks vs Forever Hooligans vs Time Splitters (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Kevin Steen (****)

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