ROH Honor In The Heart Of Texas 6/1/2013

ROH 326 – Honor In The Heart Of Texas – 1st June 2013

This has to be a candidate for worst ROH show name ever. The DVD menu screens are equally atrocious…but hopefully that’s where the sucking ends. The card for tonight’s return to Texas is decent – highlighted by perhaps the toughest test to Jay Briscoe’s championship reign thus far as Davey Richards steps up to challenge. Singles matches between the likes of Roderick Strong and Adam Cole, or Jay Lethal and ACH look promising too. We also have Eddie Edwards stepping into the TV Title Proving Ground with Matt Taven and a SCUM vs ROH Texas Tornado Tag. Kevin Kelly goes solo on commentary this evening in San Antonio, TX.

SIDENOTE – I instantly notice that sound quality on this show is horrible, and as I don’t see Kevin Kelly around ringside anywhere it looks like, for the first time in a while, we have an over-dubbed commentary track rather than live audio at the venue. Everything other than Kelly’s voice is extremely quiet, whilst Kevin himself is blaringly loud to the point of being totally obnoxious.

Kyle O’Reilly vs Mike Sydal
Neither member of reDRagon are booked in particularly high profile matches this evening. Kyle faces Sydal first, and will be looking for an emphatic win to continue what has been an outstanding 2013.

O’Reilly doesn’t seem to be sweating mini-Bourne too much, and easily wrestles circles around him for the first minute or so. Sydal works in a few athletic counters, but it’s all sizzle and no steak thus far. He rattles off a couple of armdrags…only to be thrown into the air as Kyle dropkicks his leg out from under him. Perhaps an aerial assault would be more appropriate – and Mike immediately gets a nearfall with a springboard crossbody. Standing moonsault gets 2. Bobby Fish doesn’t like that one bit, and seems much happier when O’Reilly starts working over Sydal’s arm. He also pulls the bottom rope away from Mike as he tries to break a submission hold from the former Team Ambition member. HAMMERLOCK CRADLE DDT by O’Reilly! Sydal retorts by bridging under a lariat attempt into a neckbreaker. He follows with the sliding Bourne corner clothesline then a flying double knee strike for 2. SUPER UGLY MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! He nearly smashed his own face into the apron on the way down there. I don’t get how he’s so much worse than Matt Sydal/Evan Bourne when it comes to high-flying. Kyle punishes him with a mafia kick in the corner, then the rolling butterflies. Cross armbreaker…rolled into the Fujiwara Armbar. Sydal taps at 09:38

Rating – ** – There was some really nice work from O’Reilly in here, so it certainly wasn’t a total bust…but Sydal’s performance was again very poor. It’s like his legs have no power or spring in them at all. Where his brother Evan Bourne/Matt Sydal has gorgeous poise, power, precision and elegance when he hits aerial moves, Mike seems to just flop off the ropes with minimal elevation, finesse or hang-time. He ruins pretty much every match he has by doing spots he can’t pull off. I’m really fed up of writing the same thing in my review for every one of his matches too…

A local Fox TV rep shills the various Sinclair networks ROH runs on, before complaining about Steve Corino crashing a live interview with ACH on a local news broadcast in the week leading up to this event. Corino himself comes through the crowd to continue bashing San Antonio just as he did on the news (‘I’ve never heard of Shawn Michaels’ – Corino). Mark Briscoe interrupts his rant, and infuriates him by trashing ‘his boyfriend’ Matt Hardy. Corino is so annoyed he tries to punch Mark…and we have an impromptu match on our hands…

Mark Briscoe vs Steve Corino
Now he’s installed as the leader and mouthpiece of SCUM, as well as part of the commentary team, most had presumed Corino was pretty much done as a wrestler in ROH – at least for the time being. But clearly he’s willing to get physically involved to protect the honour of Matt Hardy – even if it means fighting Mark Briscoe whilst wearing a suit.

Corino is dragged around the ring and takes a real beating. Steve, ever the crafty veteran, fights back by choking Briscoe using his tie. He then removes his jacket, revealing cut-off sleeves to his white shirt. ‘Right To Censor’ – San Antonio. Briscoe dropkicks him against the rails…and before Steve can escape Mark grabs him again for a Russian Legsweep straight back against the barricade. The former ECW Champion kicks the middle rope into Briscoe’s testicles, then pokes him in the eyes. We’re four minutes deep and I’m not sure Steve’s actually used a legal manoeuvre yet. It’s Redneck Kung Fu time, before Briscoe heads upstairs for a flying splash. Rhett Titus and Jimmy Jacobs stop Todd Sinclair from counting the pinfall there…and as Corino lays Mark out with a chain it’s called a DQ at 06:48

Rating – DUD – It seemed like this one was entertaining enough for the live crowd, but I found it a total bore. Mark Briscoe has basically become Colt Cabana now, in that he does nothing other than the same comedy spots in every match, which the live crowds love, but watching them over and over again on DVD becomes tedious. Corino and his clever heel tactics made me chuckle, but in the end this was entirely forgettable, pointless, and Mark doesn’t even leave with the popular pinfall win to boost his momentum as he prepares for a title shot on ppv later this month.

BJ Whitmer and Michael Elgin sprint to the ring to help Mark, and the ROH and SCUM guys separate. They’ll adjourn to the locker rooms for now, but will be back later for the Texas Tornado Match.

Barbi Hayden vs Athena
Athena has been impressing people with her work on the SBG TV show. Tonight she’s actually the one with more ROH experience as she takes on the debuting Hayden.

Hayden, it’s fair to say, is rather attractive. Even Kevin Kelly, who’s usually halfway professional about these things, seems somewhat taken with her. She proves herself a pretty smart wrestler too, outwitting Athena as she over-excitedly tries to throw armdrags…then rolling out of the ring as she does finally land some offence. She then instructs a security guard to stop the front row fans from ‘looking at her’. Athena dives through the ropes to kick her in the head though…so Barbi grabs the ropes and orders the referee to stop her hitting her in the face. Athena attempts a springboard reverse elbow, only for Hayden to drive her to the canvas by the hair. I like this girl! Athena lands some superkicks…but again Barbi shuts her momentum down, this time with a tilta-whirl slam. She disrespectfully kicks at Athena as she lies on the deck, until Athena counters one into an ankle lock. Handspring lariat NAILED! She tries it a second time but once again Hayden is too smart and drills her into the buckles. As if that wasn’t enough she starts stomping Athena’s head against the middle turnbuckle for good measure. Athena shoves her out of the corner as she tries a superplex. She lands in prime position for the O-FACE! Athena wins at 07:00

Rating – ** – I don’t know where she lives, but if she’s cheap enough to bring in, ROH should definitely find a spot for Barbi. She is obviously hot (ROH is on TV, that counts whether it sounds chauvinistic or not)…but she’s actually extremely funny and clever in the way she works her gimmick, and wrestled very competently too. Certainly this one had it’s sloppy moments, but it felt like they were coming from Athena rather than her. I’m happy for both of these two to keep popping up on the SBG show at least.

Matt Taven vs Eddie Edwards
This is a Proving Ground Match…and that’s a fitting description of this one in every sense of the word. Of course, it’s the standard format meaning that if Eddie wins or goes to the time limit then he earns himself a TV Title shot, but it’s also a proving ground match for Taven in so many ways. Edwards is one of the top workers in the company and is assured a spot in ROH history as he was the first ever Television Champion. He defeated Davey Richards in the finals of the HDNet tournament to crown the first ever TV Champion, and although his run never really got out of first gear, his ‘Ten Minute Hunt’ concept was a precursor to the Proving Ground, and his 2/3 falls match with Chris Daniels for the TV Title in Chicago is still the best match for this championship so far (in my opinion). Can Die Hard earn himself a shot at the belt? And can Taven step up his game to match one of ROH’s best?

No Martini or Hoopla Hotties with Taven tonight. They trade holds early, where Taven earns himself some credit as he hangs in there with Edwards who is clearly a superior mat wrestler. In turn, Die Hard earns some applause as he gets the better of the champion as the pace quickens (which in theory favours him). Matt tries to springboard off the top, makes an error and gets crotched on the turnbuckles by Edwards…who tree of woes him for a couple of vicious sliding dropkicks. The inexperience of Taven is starting to show, and as he tries to crawl away Edwards catches him for a Bryan Danielson-inspired Mexican surfboard. Finally Matt makes the ropes, using them to springboard into a jumping enzi which knocks Eddie out of the ring. He tries to insult his opponent, dragging him around the ring to chop him just as Edwards has so often done to his opponents. Of course, it bites him on the ass eventually and Eddie chops him so hard it takes him of his feet. He then gets front row fans to hold poor Taven in place as he unleashes more of the same! SLINGSHOT swinging neckbreaker from Taven, who is furious that Edwards has chopped him so hard that his chest is bleeding. Spinning suplex follows, and it’s clear Matt is trying to focus his offence on the neck of his opponent. Even his springboard corkscrew senton lands across the upper torso, neck and head rather than the chest region. He backs away from a slap duel with the American Wolf…then BOOTS him in the mouth as he does so. Edwards is hurting, so tries to toss Matt to the floor. Taven tries to skin the cat…AND GETS KICKED IN THE FACE! Elbow suicida blocked though! He tries to drop Eddie on his neck with a German, only for Die Hard to counter and toss him to the floor again. EXTRA RUN-UP ELBOW SUICIDA NAILED! He comes back in with a missile dropkick then goes back after the bloody chest with the Machine Gun Chops. Backpack Stunner countered though, as Taven continues absorbing the first ever Triple Crown Champion’s best shots then coming back. ACHILLES LOCK! COUNTERED! ANGEL’S WINGS! FOR 2! Is that in his repertoire, or did he just deliberately steal the move of the guy who beat Edwards for the belt? Headlock Driver blocked…but so is Eddie’s attempt at a super rana. FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH! Eddie kicks out at 2! Taven is feeling confident now, and starts slapping Edwards around in the corner. EDDIE DOUBLE STOMPS HIS NECK! POWERBOMB! DIE HARD! Eddie wins, and secures himself a TV Title shot at 15:54

Rating – **** – That rating is possibly a tad generous, but I really enjoyed this one. Lots of people asked why it needed to be a ‘Proving Ground Match’, but personally I felt it was so appropriate. Of course, putting Eddie in the Proving Ground wasn’t necessary, but that wasn’t the story here. This was Matt Taven in the ROH Proving Ground. He’s been given the TV Title and, thus far, hasn’t lived up to expectations. Here he was with his back against the wall, the ‘over’ parts of his act (Truth and Scarlett) not booked, and told to stand toe to toe with a former Triple Crown Champion. He emphatically delivered on all counts. He was charismatic, funny at times, and thoroughly believable when taking the fight to Edwards. Eddie made him look great of course, but equally was bad ass in his own right, and I look forward to a rematch with the title on the line soon.

SIDENOTE – Aren’t Proving Ground matches supposed to have 15-minute time limits?

ACH vs Jay Lethal
This is a huge match for ACH, as he works his first ROH match in his hometown. Interestingly, ROH have also framed this by calling Lethal a ‘hero’ of his when he was getting into wrestling. The age difference between them isn’t that big, but of course Lethal began his wrestling career extremely young, and was a prominent member of the roster for companies like JAPW and ROH (as Hydro in Special K, then as Jay Lethal) before he made it big in TNA.

ACH is popular everywhere, but he easily gets the biggest pop of the night (as far as you can tell from the horrendous sound on this DVD). He seizes the upper hand mentally, as he outwrestles Lethal in the first exchange then chooses not to boot him in the head even though he could. Jay actually volunteers to quicken the pace…and unlike ACH when the opportunity comes he doesn’t hesitate and delivers the dropkick out of the hiptoss as he always does. He stops ACH rolling around on the canvas, drags him up and punches him square in the face too. Rather than let his confidence get shaken, ACH fires back with a flurry of RIDICULOUS armdrags and headscissors takedowns. Corkscrew enzi knocks Jay to the floor…but in a split-second Lethal is back in, before ACH can get a run-up for a dive. ACH does the same right back to Jay…THEN BACK FLIPS OFF THE APRON to avoid his springboard dropkick! TOPE SUICIDA finally connects for the former TV and Pure Champion! That’s the turning point, allowing Jay to establish his control over the match for the first time. He has ACH on the ropes for a couple of minutes, until the hometown boy explodes back to life with a sliding lariat then a flying crossbody. He nearly knocks Lethal out drilling him with a dropkick out of the corner, but gets the wind knocked out of his sails himself as they collide in the middle of the ring with both trying to crank the pace up another notch. Lethal’s big match experience has him looking the stronger of the two, and he lays in some heavy-handed strikes…only for ACH to boot him out of the ring them instantly wipe him out with a SPRINGBOARD CORKSCREW PLANCHA! And he landed on his feet to boot! Jay has had enough, and tries to finish with the Lethal Injection. COUNTERED WITH A SLINGSHOT STUNNER FOR 2! ACH goes for another slingshot, only to be caught in mid-air by Lethal. ACH slips off Jay’s shoulders…but Lethal drags him back up for an IMPLANT FACEBUSTER! DOUBLE TWIST GHANA-REA BY ACH! SUPERKICK BY LETHAL! ACH tries to meet him with thrust kicks, so Jay drops him again. MACHO ELBOW NAILED! ACH KICKS OUT! Lethal Combination blocked once. So Jay enzis him in the head then nails the Combination second time around. LETHAL INJECTION SCORES! He finally puts ACH away at 17:43

Rating – **** – ACH has almost become a can’t-miss talent on house shows this year. The fans who only follow ROH through TV and ppv really haven’t even scratched the surface of what this kid is capable of. Following on from the Strong match at Honor vs Evil and the Elgin match at Dragon’s Reign, this was another midcard showstealer from him. This was actually the toughest of the three to work for him too, as it’s SO hard to work this style of match. There was no body part work here, there was no selling a limb. This was a constant game of one-upmanship, in front of a crowd absolutely lapping it up and begging for more. They had to work at a FAST pace, for nearly 20-minutes in a scorching hot building (they were sweating buckets before the bell even rung), but were hitting everything perfectly. Lethal, as the veteran, looked to establish his dominance, only to bet at every turn by the brilliance and athleticism of ACH. Ultimately Jay had enough to put him away, but once again even in defeat ACH gets to look absolutely superb. His rise in 2013 has been meteoric, and the crowd are really getting into him. Sooner or later they are actually going to have to let him win some of these thrilling, show-stopping matches at house shows though.

Bobby Fish vs Raymond Rowe
One half of reDRagon enjoyed a routine victory earlier, so Fish will be looking to follow suit in his enhancement match this evening. His task seems far more difficult than Mike Sydal though, as he faces the sizeable Raymond Rowe in his ROH debut. Rowe has a great look: well-built and covered in tattoos. Does he have the skills to go with it though?

reDRagon channel their inner Edge & Christian by dressing up as, and mocking rednecks during Bobby’s entrance. It certainly gets the fans to rally behind Rowe from the outset. It gets worse as Fish easily out-wrestles the debutant then starts slapping him disrespectfully across the back of the head. Ray’s response is to throw him into the mat with such force that he has to roll out of the ring to recover. He starts mocking Bobby’s comparative lack of strength…then shakes off a kick to the legs to drill Fish with a backbreaker. Once again the Tag Champion retreats, leaving the ring again where the distraction of Kyle O’Reilly enables him to get the jump on his larger opponent. Rowe has chopped him so hard his chest is bleeding by the way. Raymond hits a belly to belly suplex Taz-style…but once again gets distracted by O’Reilly and gets his legs swept out from under him by Fish. Bobby works the leg, slowly starting to expose the lack of experience on Rowe’s part. Very quickly Bobby has him limping around the ring, and he makes a rookie error by trying a running double knee strike…only to go crashing legs-first into the turnbuckles. Leg grapevine locked in to do yet more damage to that body part. On one leg Raymond tries to mount a comeback, landing some clubbing clotheslines then a NECK DROP Saito suplex for 2. Fish fires right back with a Saito suplex of his own and follows it with a Buzzsaw Kick to the side of the head. Out of nowhere Rowe does hit the shotgun knees, but it clearly hurt him and he’s slow to cover – getting a relatively safe nearfall when he finally does. EASY dead-lift German gets another nearfall. Bobby kicks and punches at the leg some more, striking with such speed that Ray seems powerless to prevent him…until he finally does catch one and hits a brutal spinning one-armed powerbomb! Dragon suplex attempt…but Fish counters to a crucifix pin – and that’s enough for him to score the pinfall. Bobby wins in 11:44

Rating – ** – Solid match, although it certainly dragged on and become rather tedious towards the end. Rowe has something about him. He has the look and movements of a Karl Anderson, flavours of offence from the likes of Taz and Michael Elgin…but unfortunately he seems to have the charisma of a Brent Albright or a BJ Whitmer. I’d be interested in seeing him again, but he’d need to be booked and managed extremely well, and I’m not sure there’s a spot on the roster for him at present. Given that he was using Elgin’s moves before Unbreakable has wrestled, and left Fish visibly bloody and battered, I’m not sure how soon he’ll be back. This wasn’t a bust by any means – but everything they did could have been accomplished in six to eight minutes rather than going nearly twelve.

Roderick Strong vs Adam Cole
This is a renewal of old rivalries, with these two sharing a few really good matches back in 2012. The motivation for both men here is simple – they are looking for a credible win over championship level competition to force their way back into title contention. Cole lost his World Title shot at Border Wars 2013. He lost to BJ Whitmer a few weeks ago and has clearly been going through somewhat of a crossroads in his young career. Strong, despite being the self-styled ‘Mr ROH’, hasn’t produced too many big wins in 2013 either. He’s nose-dived since losing the feud-ending showdown with Michael Elgin at the 11th Anniversary Show, and is now looking to rebound from a high profile loss to Taiji Ishimori on the Sinclair TV show too.

The match goes straight to the canvas with Roderick, as the more experienced and more technically-savvy worker, gaining an advantage. Things are much more even as the pace quickens – and both men try their hand at early pinfalls, eventually tying each other in knots then breaking to accept a deserved round of applause. Early Stronghold attempt blocked…so Roddy puts the heel of his boot through Adam’s face then blasts him with a volley of chops. That softens him up for a torture rack gutbuster, leaving him on the ground and vulnerable to a rear bearhug. Cole escapes and snaps his opponent down with a jumping neckbreaker. In the heat of the building on a stifling summer evening, it seems like both men are wilting, and after wearily throwing strikes at each other they collide attempting crossbody blocks at the same time. Urinage backbreaker blocked…so is the Death By Roderick. Cole counters that to a DVD over the knee for 2. He lines up a superkick…but EATS a Roaring Elbow from Strong instead. Shining Wizard right back at Roderick though! Cole wants the Florida Key, but Roddy chops his way free. Black Superkick COUNTERED to the Figure 4! Roderick gets to the ropes…but Adam refuses to let go until the last possible second. Cole dives to the floor looking for a tope suicida…but he BOUNCES off a sweaty Roderick Strong and crashes into the guardrails at breakneck speed. It’s hard to tell who got the better of that one! Apparently it’s Strong, as he boots Cole in the mouth and hauls him back into the ring with a superplex. Still he can’t hit Death By Roderick though. Both guys stand in the middle of the ring and absolutely tee off on each other with chops and elbows. Death By Roderick landed at the third time of asking. Sick Kick BLOCKED with a superkick! Orange Crush Backbreaker…COUNTERED TO THE CRADLEBREAKER! Strong JUMPS OVER THE SUPERKICK! GIBSON DRIVER! Huge win for Roddy at 15:27!

Rating – *** – This was a significant step down from some of the outstanding matches they were having last year, but for a house show on a night where the sweltering heat was clearly impacting how much they could actually do with each other, this was decent. It was competitive, gruelling and intensely physical. The climactic sequence was stunning, and, having committed to having Cole lose to guys like Whitmer during this slow burn heel turn, I’m glad they are sticking to it and letting Roddy go over him too (I’m not saying Roderick needs to be champion again, but the guy has been losing near enough constantly and needs to maintain some credibility). Check out their Homecoming 2012 No Holds Barred Match, or the TV Title change match on Sinclair if you enjoyed this.

No Code Of Honor from Adam Cole after the match, as he turns his back on Strong’s outstretched hand and storms out of the arena to the jeers of the Texas crowd.

SIDENOTE – This was right around the time ROH announced they’d signed Adam Cole to a new contract. Given that he had documented WWE interest and had participated in what was reportedly a well-received try-out in the early months of 2013 too, getting him to sign was a real bonus. He’s in the midst of an interesting heel turn (something fans have wanted to see for a while) and, just by looking at him you can tell he’s in, aesthetically speaking at least, the best shape he’s ever been. BUT, I don’t think he’s been reaching his full potential thus far in 2013. Last year he was terrific, and produced multiple great matches. This year, if you’re honest, he’s not really produced any particularly memorable bouts since the Jimmy Jacobs match at the first house show of 2013. The likes of Elgin, Lethal, ACH, Fish and O’Reilly have been in incredible form in 2013. The likes of Edwards, Richards and Strong continue to be the established company work-horses. Guys like C&C WrestleFactory and Tadarius Thomas have made sizeable improvements on the undercard. I know he’s been stuck with guys like Hardy and Taven…but with a new contract now inked, if he wants to become the ‘franchise player’ Kevin Kelly hyped him as on commentary during this match, then he needs to step up and produce performances to rival some of his competition – the guys that I’ve just been mentioning.

Jimmy Jacobs/Rhett Titus vs Michael Elgin/BJ Whitmer – No DQ Match
This one is fought under Texas Tornado rules, but since it’s also No DQ that’s pretty much redundant from the outset as, if there’s no disqualifications, it’s not like the official can enforce the standardised tag match format anyway. ROH and SCUM are gearing up for the all or nothing 8-man showdown in Baltimore at the end of the month…so are presented with a terrific opportunity here to inflict some serious damage. It’s also a chance for someone like BJ to get his hands on old enemies like Jacobs and Titus, and for the SCUM team to state their own claim for title shots with a win over the current #1 contender to the World Championship in Michael Elgin.

It’s shades of their Falls Count Anywhere Match in Liverpool, England as Whitmer and Jacobs immediately brawl right up the aisle and into the crowd. BJ soon catches up with Titus as well, sitting him in a chair for repeated close-range chops as Elgin wheels Jimmy away in a trash can. All four fight in front of the merch table…with Jacobs diving off another nearby table to land an elbow drop to BJ on the floor. He gets up limping, and is further punished as Unbreakable gives him a backbreaker over a plastic chair. Briefly they return to the ring, only for Whitmer to leave again with an ELBOW SUICIDA! Rhettski slings him into the guardrails, temporarily incapacitating him to allow a 2-on-1 SCUM assault on Elgin. They mock him with a stalling double suplex…only for BJ to come back for STEREO STALLING SUPLEXES by Team ROH! Whitmer hits the exploder suplex on Jacobs as Elgin runs Titus into the turnbuckles with a DVD for 2. PESCADO THROUGH A CHAIR by Jimmy! That means that they have Elgin taken out of the match for minutes, leaving Whitmer exposed to a handicap assault. They can’t put him away in time and Michael returns to the match with a slingshot tackle on Jacobs. Flatliner/DDT combo by BJ to both opponents…then Team ROH play a hilarious game of lariat-tennis on poor Rhett. Jimmy is powerbombed over BJ’s knees for another 2. Jacobs hits back with a spear, then a senton off Titus’ shoulders. Rhett exposes the concrete floor…and only a last minute save from Unbreakable saves his partner from a spike piledriver! Elgin hits the DEAD-LIFT SUPERPLEX on Rhett! Jacobs comes to his partner’s aid with the rebound cutter on Elgin. Contra Code COUNTERED WITH THE BACK FIST! BUCKLE BOMB! SPIRAL BOMB COUNTERED TO END TIME! Whitmer boots Jimmy to break that then nearly rips his head off with rolling fisherman neckbreakers for 2. Thrust Buster on Whitmer! Titus blocks the dead-lift German from Elgin so gets the Black Hole Slam instead! SPEAR…CAUGHT! ELGIN BUCKLE BOMBS JACOBS ON TOP OF RHETT! SAMOAN DROP/FALLAWAY SLAM COMBO! Steve Corino runs in and lugs Elgin with a chain just as he looks set to Spiral Bomb Jacobs. Mark Briscoe comes out to even the scores…but not before Steve slipped the chain to Rhett. He fails to use it, but in the melee both Jacobs and Titus manage to pin BJ – giving SCUM the win at 19:35

Rating – *** – Even with a stinky finish and a bloated time allocation, this was actually one of my favourite matches of the ROH/SCUM feud. It was all action, and save a brief period where SCUM’s heat segments were tough to get into, I certainly never felt bored. I was glad BJ and Jimmy referenced their legendary feud to a certain extent. Their past has been criminally under-utilised in the ROH vs SCUM feud thus far. It’s a shame they had to throw out such an uninventive finish too, but for the most part I had a blast watching this. Elgin and Jacobs, in particular, looked excellent.

Jay Briscoe vs Davey Richards – ROH World Title Match
Depending on how long Ring Of Honor can keep Davey around, this will become an obligatory duty of his in the ‘Bryan Danielson’ role. Every time a new champion needs a high quality title defence he’ll be booked against the American Wolf. Richards, for all his critics, remains as important to the promotion as ever and has been producing a real streak of high quality matches over recent shows. He was barred from challenging from the title whilst Kevin Steen held it, but now Mr Wrestling has been dethroned he can at last look to reclaim the belt he held for nearly a year between Best In The World 2011 and Border Wars 2012. The Briscoes and the Wolves have had a keenly contested tag team rivalry in ROH, but in a still unfamiliar singles environment, and with a shoulder which is increasingly falling apart as his reign progresses, many would consider Briscoe to be the underdog tonight.

Briscoe is understandably hesitant, and seems reluctant to allow Richards anywhere near him during the opening exchanges. He does, however, back himself as the stronger athlete, so frequently tries to engage the challenger in tests of strength. He uses that position to give him the advantage in a mat wrestling exchange, but it’s short-lived and he’s soon back to ducking and diving as he avoids the barrage of kicks and strikes coming his way. He sensibly knocks Davey out of the ring, and surprises him by catapulting himself immediately into a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! The crowd are eating up the continual tests of strength, so go nuts when they instigate another one on the outside. Richards this time uses it to trick Jay, shoving him away and hitting the running soccer kick from the apron. He tries to decimate the champ with kicks…only for Briscoe to get up and start HEADBUTTING him! Davey takes it back to the ring where he clearly has the superiority, and takes Briscoe to the deck looking to pick apart his legs with submission holds. He has Jay hobbling, to which the champion responds by straight up punching him in the mouth. After ten minutes it’s apparent this will come down to a contest between Jay’s brawling and street fighting skills against the silky smooth technical skills and MMA-influenced striking of the challenger. Never is that more apparent as Jay tries to choke Richards on the deck, only for the Wolf to fight back by kicking him into the corner. Next it’s a kicks vs headbutts duel with the champ winning out, and booting a defenceless Davey to the canvas for 2. DUELLING MAFIA KICKS! Richards Alarm Clocks Jay…SUPERKICK BY JAY! He looks for the falcon arrow, only for Richards to counter with a brainbuster – and both men are down! The strike exchanges spill to the apron, again with Jay using headbutts and elbows to counteract the aggressive kicking of his opponent. Richards dragon screws his leg in the ropes, only for Briscoe to hop up for a DVD ON THE APRON! He dives into a frog splash for 2, noticeably not getting the usual spring off the top rope just moments after that dragon screw in the ropes. Jay tries one mafia kick too many, and sees it COUNTERED into a cradle suplex to the buckles. TOPE CON HILO INTO THE FRONT ROW! Back into the ring, with Richards laying Briscoe out with the Tombstone. FLYING DOUBLE STOMP FOR 2! Jay somehow drops Davey with the turnbuckle flatliner, so Richards starts punching him in the bad knee. SUPERPLEX…COUNTERED IN MID-AIR BY JAY INTO A GOURDBUSTER! DAVEY LANDED ON HIS FACE! He staggers to his feet and still has enough fight left in him to block the Jay Driller. HEAD DROP GERMAN! NO SOLD! ARMBREAKER…COUNTERED! ANKLELOCK INSTEAD! Will Jay tap? He doesn’t, but collapses to his knees again and eats a BUZZSAW KICK! DR DRIVER NAILED! JAY KICKS OUT! ANKLELOCK AGAIN! Briscoe can’t stand, yet somehow clocks Richards with a lariat from his knees! JAY DRILLER! He retains at 23:19

Rating – **** – That was a surprisingly great match (considering the result was never in doubt), and if there’s a better match in Jay’s entire run as champion I’ll be surprised. I’ve seen this written off in some places as a simple head droppy, strikefest with no real subtlety or technical merit – but I’d strongly disagree with that assessment. Sure by the end it had largely degenerated into a parade of spots, but this is the indies, you sort of expect that. At least here everything told a story, whether it be Jay trying to overpower Davey early, and then simply trying to use his brawling smarts to get the better of his technically superior and more experienced (as a singles worker) opponent. Even at the climax, Davey actually gained the advantage by working the legs – a wrestling strategy. I know people are in a rush to dismiss Davey’s contributions to Ring Of Honor, and some feel that he won’t be a painful loss when, as expected, he inks a WWE deal by the end of 2013. Personally, I think he’ll be a colossal miss, as matches like this demonstrate. Even on the most routine of house shows, he’s the one guy on the roster they can throw out in the ring, give him 20 minutes and KNOW he will deliver a stunning match. Only Bryan Danielson has ever had that kind of consistency. His matches with O’Reilly this year, his work with the Wolves (be it against the Briscoes in January, or reDRagon more recently), or his memorable clash with Paul London at Border Wars, show that regardless of his role in the company or how heavily he is promoted, his workrate is still top notch and completely irreplaceable.

Tape Rating – *** – To rate this show, one has to balance the three very strong 4* matches and a generally very decent card with the fact that absolutely nothing of real significance actually happened. Briscoe/Davey, as good as it was, was a completely routine house show defence of the title. Sure Eddie won a TV Title shot, but that will surely lead to him going onto the SBG show to put Matt Taven over in a more public setting. Even Lethal/ACH, exciting as it may have been, ended with the status quo maintained and Lethal getting the better of his promising opponent. If you buy every show you’ll like this, but if you purchase selectively it’s tough to know how to position this for a sale. The first hour is pretty much a bust, ROH didn’t get their big win over SCUM…the Tag Champions, continually entertaining throughout the year so far, were completely under-utilised, and Cole/Strong was done better multiple times in 2012. If you’re happy with some top notch wrestling then Jay/Davey, Lethal/ACH and Taven/Eddie will float your boat. If you’re looking for can’t miss, mind-blowing shows then you won’t get that with this DVD.

Top 3 Matches
3) Matt Taven vs Eddie Edwards (****)
2) Jay Lethal vs ACH (****)
1) Jay Briscoe vs Davey Richards (****)

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