ROH Honor vs. Evil 2/16/2013

ROH 319 – Honor vs Evil – 16th February 2013

I think it was February 2012 when Ring Of Honor last ran a show in this building. They were so pleased with the venue (which is gorgeous) and the attendance (something ROH has traditionally struggled with in Ohio – particularly outside of ‘The Oven’ in Dayton) that they did promise to revisit it at some point. Well this is as that show and, despite not having the strongest card you’ll ever see, there are some matches which show some real promise. BJ Whitmer faces Kyle O’Reilly in what could be a really physical encounter, Tadarius Thomas gets a chance to shine against one of ROH’s most reliable performers in Jay Lethal, and ACH’s battle with Roderick Strong was so well-received that ACH was awarded an ROH contract almost immediately afterwards. That’s all on the undercard and even if it doesn’t strike your fancy, the 6-man main event of the original SCUM trio facing an ROH dream team of Davey Richards, Michael Elgin and Adam Cole should be of real interest. I’ve heard they gave it a lot of time to play out too, so I’m really hoping we’ll get our money’s worth out of that match alone. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness are in Cincinnati, OH.

SIDENOTE – This DVD also has the Briscoes/SCUM Tag Title match from the National Pro Wrestling Day festivities. It’s only a brief match, but I thought I’d mention it as I felt it was by some distance the best performance by Corino and Jacobs as a team thus far. If they’d have looked like that in more of their title defences maybe ROH wouldn’t have hastily taken the belts off them in favour of an 8th Briscoe reign at Final Battle. It also took on increased significance with Corino promising something big at the 11th Anniversary (which obviously happened) and Jay Briscoe challenging Kevin Steen to a title shot (which would go down at Supercard Of Honor in April).

QT Marshall vs Jay Briscoe
I think it’s fair to say that Marshall is one of the most hated guys on the roster at this point. Not in the ‘heel’ sense of the word hated, just that most fans have no interest in watching him wrestle and don’t believe he’s good enough to be in Ring Of Honor. If I’m honest, I find him quite bland but I can think of at least three (and possibly more) guys I’d remove from the roster before I got to him. That said, he does need to start looking like he can contribute. He’s got one of the best managers in the company (RD Evans – who isn’t here tonight) but hasn’t wrestled any good matches, hasn’t won too often and was considered so uninteresting he was actually relegated to the Final Battle pre-show where he lost to Grizzly Redwood. I’d say the chance to get in the ring with ROH veteran Jay Briscoe should be looked at as a real opportunity for him – but also a stern test. If he can’t get a good run out of one of ROH’s top guys then perhaps he really does have no business here. Presumably his contract will run out eventually, and he certainly won’t get a new one at this rate.

Nigel makes fun of QT for being out of shape and sucking his gut in, which just about sums up his stature within the company. Briscoe tries to dump him out early…and as Marshall skins the cat Jay boots him in the face and causes him to crash to the floor. It’s all going the way of the Tag Champion, so it’s almost a surprise when he makes an error and allows himself to be dragged off the second rope to a big crash landing on the canvas. Briscoe punches his way back into the contest then scores the first real nearfall of the contest following a neckbreaker. Marshall decides to shunt his shoulder against the ringpost and gets his own 2-count with a Rocker Dropper. Backbreaker/powerslam combo comes next, and for the first time QT looks to be getting some momentum going. Jay Driller out of nowhere! That’s all it takes to put God’s Gift away – and Briscoe wins at 06:50

Rating – ** – It was kept brief and Jay certainly wasn’t working too hard. Again I’d argue that this was a perfectly capable and functional performance from Marshall. The issue is that he doesn’t seem to have the ability to produce much more than that. He’s not overwhelmingly strong, he’s not got rapid pace, he doesn’t have exceptional agility, he certainly doesn’t appear to be a silky smooth technician, there are no submission skills on display and he’s not especially charismatic either. He looks like what he is – a bland, generic performer making a decent fist of a spot he’s probably not ready for. But if he doesn’t start finding his niche soon I can’t see Delirious sticking with him for anywhere near as long as someone like Jim Cornette would have.

In the back Tadarius Thomas tells Veda Scott that he doesn’t want to be a stepping stone for Jay Lethal, who is in final preparations for his title match at the 11th Anniversary Show.

Jay Lethal vs Tadarius Thomas
Continuing the theme established in the previous contest, I’d argue that this is both an opportunity and a test for TD’s potential in ROH. He’s had a contract for a while, has produced some decent performances, but certainly hasn’t captured the imagination of the fanbase and started to generate any upwards momentum for his career. This evening he is put in the ring with Lethal, who since his return in 2011 has been one of the most reliable performers ROH has. He needs the win in the build-up to his big rematch with Kevin Steen, but Tadarius certainly needs to prove he’s on the same level as Jay if he wants to start getting bigger matches in this organisation on a regular basis.

The ovation Lethal gets for his entrance is deafening. He truly is one of ROH’s top guys now, even if he doesn’t beat Steen for the title next month. Thomas tries to unsettle him from the bell though, and even as they circle each other before the lock-up he is bobbing, weaving and cartwheeling around. He has no issue wrestling Lethal into the corner…then back flips away as he casually gives the former TV and Pure Champion a clean break. Lethal tries to increase the pace…but TD just cranks it up a gear too! Awesome sequence as he ducks Jay’s quebrada, returns an armdrag with one of his own – then awesome counters the usual hiptoss/dropkick combo by trying to roll into one of his capo kick attacks. Weirdly Nigel sees that exchange totally differently to me, calling Lethal the clear winner, and compares TD to a ‘cowardly lion’. Lethal tries to mount Thomas…who BRIDGES into a rana attempt, only for Lethal to counter that into an STF! CHOP TO THE FACE! Thomas has got Jay so wound up that he is resorting to that, plus actually choking him in the ropes before blasting him with a dropkick from the floor. Tadarius looks to have been knocked loopy, and isn’t helped by Lethal who dismissively toe-punts him off the apron like trash. Lethal Injection blocked though, allowing Thomas to throw a few more kicks. His strikes have Lethal stumbling around the ring in pain, and even retreating to the sanctity of the ropes. This one has been a war and it’s taking it’s toll on Jay now. He tries to trade chops with Tadarius, who easily puts him on the deck to deliver another punishing kick between the shoulder  blades. SUPERKICK! ANOTHER FACE CHOP! When Jay does get some offence in it has been really violent tonight. He wants to superplex his opponent but Thomas beats him into a tree of woe AND DOUBLE STOMPS HIM RIGHT IN THE RIBS! TIGER SUPLEX FOR 2! Lethal looks like he has nothing left, but somehow rattles off another superkick, then EXPLODES into the LETHAL INJECTION! He finally puts Thomas away at 11:52

Rating – *** – I gave real consideration to awarding 4* to this, it was genuinely at that kind of level. Had the finish been better (although it made sense, it came a little suddenly, and the Lethal Injection looked a little botched too) I would have given it 4* without a moment’s hesitation. I said this was a test for Tadarius Thomas, and became a test that he passed with flying colours. This was a brilliant little back and forth battle, with TD completely stepping up to Lethal’s level and looking completely at home dominating large portions of the contest. Credit has to go to Jay too, who cranks out great matches almost constantly for Ring Of Honor now. He sold like a champ for Thomas’ offence, and his body language and aggression when on offence truly established Tadarius as a real threat. He deserves his spot in the main event of the big ippv next month. For TD, this is now a third house show in succession where he has delivered a really strong performance. He also made the finals of the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament too, so I’d suggest ROH are starting to notice him stepping up his game.

Mark Briscoe vs Nate Webb
I haven’t seen Nate wrestle in a few years to be honest, so I really don’t know what he’s been up to. He certainly hasn’t appeared in ROH for some time (although his involvement in the CZW feud does mean he was part of one of the most legendary Ring Of Honor angles of all time), and I think many people were a little surprised to see him get this opportunity. He can be a whacky performer, which at least means he has an ideal opponent in the equally crazy Mark Briscoe.

Rather than shake hands they opt to bow to in respect…which about sums up the mindset of both opponents. They then charge into an indescribable battle of hillbilly Kung Fu poses. If you’re being cruel it looks like the years on the road, and his recent time away from wrestling to pursue a career as an announcer have slowed Nate substantially. He struggles to turn in a flip as he counters Briscoe’s arm wrench and generally struggles to make much of an impression in the first three minutes. Rolling DVD from Mark, who tosses him out of the ring to deliver a brutal dropkick. It all goes wrong for Webb when he tries to get over for a back flip and hopelessly lands on his face…then botches his own finisher the Arachnid Kick. Mark flees the ring…and Webb lunges at him on a horrific somersault plancha. Seriously, end this now before Nate kills himself. Back in the ring Mark tries to kill Nate for himself – with a brutal TURNBUCKLE dragon suplex. Froggy Bow wins it for Briscoe at 07:18

Rating – DUD – Seeing Webb, who has never been a particularly graceful performer, slump to such an appalling display was pretty sad. Mark, who would probably have liked an easy night, was having to work extremely hard to stop the thing from falling apart. Webb is a popular guy on the independent circuit, and friends with a vast number of indy workers. I’d suggest whomever it was that stuck their neck out to get him this booking is probably regretting it right about now.

Roderick gets some interview time with Veda. He calls himself ‘Mr Ring Of Honor’, which is the PERFECT tweener gimmick for where he is right now in his ROH career.

Roderick Strong vs ACH
I’m really enjoying the theme of the undercard tonight, with the young and new talent being given genuine opportunities to express themselves whilst being put in the ring with some of the top guns on the ROH scene. It’s ACH’s turn now, and he has a real buzz about him despite only competing in his third Ring Of Honor match. He debuted at Death Before Dishonor 10 and really impressed the fans, who had to wait months before he was finally brought in for TV and the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament. He fell to Matt Taven in an exciting sprint on that occasion, but produced another performance of such quality that he’s been rewarded with the chance to wrestle the second ever ROH Triple Crown winner. Despite his 0-2 record, he should be a real challenge for ‘Mr ROH’ this evening.

Strong certainly doesn’t have time for the smiling and flipping antics of his opponent, and simply gives him a dismissive shove into the ropes. His no-nonsense approach is something ACH struggles with at first…but credit to the youngster who absorbs some of his hardest chops only to fire back with chops and slaps of his own. DIVING tree of woe lariat nailed too! Roderick actually has to kick him right in the face just to get himself out of the corner. In a fashion I truly have no idea how to describe ACH simultaneously springboards and flips from the apron into the ring, then bounces straight up again into a SPRINGBOARD HEEL KICK which knocks Strong to the floor. ARABIAN PRESS TO THE OUTSIDE MISSES! STRONG SWINGS ACH HEAD-FIRST INTO THE RAILS! That firmly puts the veteran in charge, and he drags his opponent back in to apply a camel clutch coupled with sadistic, clubbing blows across the chest. Apron backbreaker nailed to leave the young kid crawling around on the outside in obvious pain. Even when he gets back inside Roddy is waiting to stomp him into the ground. ELBOWS! BOOTSCRAPES! That was brutal! Just when ACH thinks he has a moment to gather his senses Strong starts hauling him up by the ears…so it’s a huge shock when ACH somehow somersaults into a flatliner! Sliding enzi from the floor follows…and he gets a nearfall with a slingshot cutter! Roderick tries to toss him out of the ring only to see it COUNTERED to an axe kick in the ropes! STEPPING SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT PLANCHA NAILED! They return to the ring where Strong savagely knees ACH in the stomach, setting him up for the half nelson backbreaker. INVERTED DEATH BY RODERICK…GETS 2! And ACH has enough to counter the Gibson Driver too! STRONGHOLD locked in, but again ACH finds a way to counter! Kicks from ACH…ELBOWS BY RODDY! DEATH BY RODERICK COUNTERED WITH A REVERSE RANA! JUST 2! ACH seems to take an age to follow up, but finally does with a STUNNER! SECOND ROPE 450 SPLASH MISSES! ORANGE CRUSH BACKBREAKER! Strong finally puts the kid away at 14:59

Rating – **** – Star-making performance from ACH, and it was quickly announced after this show that he had inked a full-time deal with the company (which is a huge coup considering the WWNLive group also had their eye on him). He was absolutely spectacular here, showing a full-range of skills needed to be a real star in this promotion. Of course he has some stunning dives in his repertoire, but he also showed that he can pace a match, can trade strikes with the best of them, can sell like a trooper and can really suck a crowd into the story of the match he’s telling (not just get them to pop for his high spots). Roderick has been here a thousand times before and also deserves a ton of praise for giving the kid the stage to show what he can do. Just as ACH showed all his skills, Roderick showed just how important he still is to this promotion in terms of creating new stars. He was violent, he was tough, he was mean…and most importantly he put the new talent over like a million dollars by selling his stuff like crazy. His reaction to that reverse rana counter to the Death By Roderick was perhaps by highlight of ROH in 2013 thus far (although it’s only mid-February). After having the OVW guys shoved down our throats for most of Jim Cornette’s run, seeing talents like ACH come to ROH rather than Gabe’s companies is as shocking as it is pleasing. I think it’ll be a good career move for ACH too. He’d get lost in the pack in Evolve/DGUSA – but in ROH there really aren’t a lot of guys like him at all.

Truth Martini arrives in Cincinnati to kick off the second half of the show with a live ‘Hoopla Uncut’ segment. It’s pretty much a car crash from start to finish, with one ‘Hoopla Hottie’ ripping her pants on her way to the ring, and the other nearly falling on her ass when she removes hers later in the skit. Adam Cole comes out to be interviewed, with Truth playing a ‘funny’ prank where the fans have to scream every time someone says ‘underwear’ (which of course they do – repeatedly). He then spoils TV for the next few weeks – and announces Matt Taven as the newest member of the HOT, winner of the 2013 TPT and challenger to Cole’s TV Title at the next ippv. Sorry ROH, now you’re releasing your shows on VOD within a week of it taking place you just can’t give away TV spoilers anymore. It’s been going on since 2009 and the HDNet show and it’s a mistake that still pisses me off and happens too much. It ends when Cole superkicks him and leaves. Utter waste of time.

Charlie Haas vs Pepper Parks
I called Haas’ work at the Defy Or Deny 2 weekend a total waste of time. If I’m honest it looks like more of the same tonight as he works yet another enhancement match against an unsigned talent. Parks worked at least one show last year…but produced a performance so forgettable I can’t remember what it was, and can’t be bothered to go back and look. Of all the guys getting a shot against a senior member of the roster tonight, he’s certainly the one who drew the short straw in getting stuck with Haas though.

Haas drinks and verbally slams the fans and his opponent tonight…until Parks gives him a slap in the face, then catapults himself over the top rope into a somersault plancha. It’s a hot start from Pepper, who tears the shirt from Charlie’s back and violently tosses him into the guardrails too. Haas retorts by capturing him in the apron then using it to restrain him as he beats mercilessly on his defenceless adversary. Olympic Slam INTO THE RINGPOST! Unfortunately from there the pace drastically slows, as Haas methodically uses a combination of punches, stomps and chinlocks to dominate Parks. The commentators get so bored that they decide to talk to Veda Scott (who is sitting at ringside) about the Hoopla Uncut segment instead. At last he misses with something (literally, I don’t even know what he was trying to do, he just sort of ran into the ropes and fell over), but the crowd have been bored into such a coma that they sit in total silence – flattening the impact of Pepper’s comeback. He does get 2 with a version of Jimmy Rave’s Ghana-rea though. That’s enough offence for the non-contracted talent, as Charlie shuts him down with a running spinebuster. He attempts a superplex, but is shoved away by Parks (not that Haas can be assed to bump it properly) and EATS a flying neckbreaker. Charlie leaves the ring for some recovery time, and uses it well as he hits the guardrail backbreaker when Pepper comes out after him. He teases hitting Parks with a crate of beer, shoves the ref down as he takes the beer from him…then fizzes a can of beer into Pepper’s eyes to win at 11:22

Rating – DUD – Seriously, can someone please explain to me why Haas is still in ROH? I wasn’t as anti-WGTT as some (although I did feel they needed to work a lot harder), but there is zero value in Charlie as a singles worker – especially if all he wants to do is squash jobbers and play up this ridiculously boring ‘Haashole’ gimmick. I actively felt bad for Pepper. He looked to have made improvements to his game since he was last here, but had to work with a gruff veteran who didn’t look interested in giving him a basic back bump, let alone help him getting a spot in ROH.

Haas celebrates by posing and flexing like Scott Steiner (at this point I’d actually rather have Steiner in ROH than Charlie)…then beats up Cheeseburger after the kid looks to get some revenge by spraying a beer in his face.

Kyle O’Reilly (wearing a scarf and holding the microphone like a glass of fine wine) fakes some respect for BJ Whitmer, and plans to put him out of action permanently in order to solidify his own spot as a championship-level competitor in Ring Of Honor.

Kyle O’Reilly vs BJ Whitmer
This is the same building where, a year ago, Whitmer made a welcome return to Ring Of Honor and produced a really solid display in a Proving Ground Match against then-Television Champion Jay Lethal. He returns this evening a permanent member of the roster, but one in search of wins as he looks to advance his rejuvenated career. O’Reilly has a Tag Title shot coming up (as a result of reDRagon’s win over the American Wolves on TV a couple of weeks ago), meaning a win over a multi-time former Tag Champion like BJ would be a real morale boost.

Whitmer gets a change to show his experience in the early going as he easily counters out of O’Reilly’s attempt to capture him in a cross armbreaker. The opening few minutes are fought almost entirely on the deck. Whilst he holds his own, you rather feel that it’s the kind of match which favours Kyle, so Whitmer is the first to switch approach and batters him with elbows and chops. O’Reilly, of course, has lethal kicks to retaliate with but such is the power of BJ that it really shakes the younger man up. O’Reilly recognises he has an issue, so quickly targets a body part and looks to make it a wrestling match again. He snaps the arm across the top rope causing Whitmer to fall out of the ring and collapse into a chair at ringside. MISSILE DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR! He connected flush on the chest and shoulder there – and goes for the cross armbreaker again as soon as he gets him back into the ring. He applies an abdominal stretch, but takes care to amend it slightly so he’s stretching Whitmer using the arm rather than twisting the torso. Immediately the damage he has done to BJ is made clear – as he engages him in another strike exchange, and this time BJ has no answer to the rapid fire shots thrown in his direction. FISH HOOK CROSSFACE! Whitmer is now fighting through multiple injuries, and the crowd pops in real surprise as he escapes and manages to drop O’Reilly first with an exploder, then with a spinebuster for 2. Kyle pummels on the head and shoulder again, and snaps off a huge BACK DROP DRIVER for 2. He drops BJ on his head again with a tornado DDT and rolls it straight into the Guillotine Choke WITH the arm captured! Whitmer rolls it…SO KYLE BRAINBUSTERS HIM! ONE COUNT OF DISRESPECT! Kyle knees him in the face ONLY FOR WHITMER TO SUPLEX HIM OVER THE TOP ROPE! EXPLODER INTO THE GUARDRAILS! FISHERMAN COMBO FOR 2! BJ comes up clutching his neck and arm, perhaps indicating they were the reason he couldn’t hold on for the victory. He thinks about an exploder from the top but O’Reilly escapes and pummels him with forearms straight across the neck. Back superplex…FOLLOWED BY A STALLING REGALPLEX! TWO COUNT ONLY! TRIANGLE CHOKE…WITH ELBOWS! BJ powerbombs out! KNEES TO THE FACE! ARM CAPTURE CHOKE! O’REILLY TAPS! Whitmer wins at 16:48

Rating – **** – I’ve not heard a great deal said about this, so I’m guessing it wasn’t a match that will cater to everyone’s taste, but personally I thought this was terrific. I question the decision to put Whitmer over O’Reilly (it’s a no brainer as to who has the brighter future out of those two) but the actual match told a terrific story. Everything they did from the first exchange to the final bell had real purpose and showcased the skills of both athletes in a positive light. O’Reilly had Whitmer staring down the barrel of another defeat, and even if I don’t think BJ should be going over Kyle, the way they took the match from that one-count spot, to him tearing Kyle apart outside to relentlessly kneeing him in the face before choking him out was a great ride. Lots of people have said that BJ’s return to ROH has been solid, but he’s yet to have that breakout match which really cements his spot, and for my money this is the one that does just that. Most of the undercard has shown us young or unsigned talents trying to get wins over their more experienced opponents. This was a nice twist on that as the beaten down veteran had to beat up the hugely skilful younger guy. I’m not sure this was better than the Strong/ACH match, but it was certainly up at that level.

SIDENOTE – I mentioned it above, but I really do need some explanation as to why Whitmer went over here. I get that he does need to secure big victories on occasion. I presume he’ll be a centrepiece of the ROH vs SCUM rivalry so he does need to give fans a reason to believe he can actually win matches. But O’Reilly is one of ROH’s brightest young stars. They just put his team over the Wolves on TV. Within a few weeks he’d be half of the Tag Champions. He’d also just sustained a high profile singles loss to Davey at Defy Or Deny 2. Plus he came up short in his feud with Adam Cole in 2012. He is really starting to look like a lame duck as a singles guy by this point.

Davey Richards/Adam Cole/Michael Elgin vs Kevin Steen/Jimmy Jacobs/Steve Corino
This is the main event, pitting an ROH ‘all star’ trio against SCUM – just weeks out from the 11th Anniversary Show where Steve Corino and SCUM have gone on record as promising that their ‘numbers will grow’ and that ROH will die. Kevin Steen is no stranger to either Davey or Elgin, having had classic ROH World Title matches with both last year. It’ll be also interesting to see Cole and Jacobs in the ring together just a few weeks after their Proving Ground clash in Dearborn which had everyone talking. During the main event of last week’s ROH on Sinclair we saw Steen and Corino have some serious communication issues. Steen even interrupted Corino feeding Cedric Alexander to Rhino and stole the win for himself – before leaving the rest of his teammates behind as he walked out. Will the lack of experience as a unit cause problems for Team ROH, or will SCUM’s rumoured personal issues raise their head and even the playing field?

Obviously SCUM don’t follow the Code Of Honor, although there is an amusing interaction between Jimmy and Davey, when the former gives the latter a slap on the ass. Richards starts with Corino, and they are on point with a surprisingly fast-paced near miss sequence. Cole and Jacobs are in next, renewing hostilities from their great encounter in Dearborn. It’s the TV Champion who gets the better of that pairing, so Steen forcibly tags his way into the bout for the first time. Michael Elgin steps in to meet him…and such is their desire to fight each other that they actually order their partners to back off, enabling them to beat the hell out of each other uninterrupted. Unbreakable overpowers Mr Wrestling at that juncture then drags him back to the Team ROH corner so they can all take turns dishing out shots to the World Champion. OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE/FLYING WOLF COMBO! All of SCUM are sent to the floor…which works to their advantage as Steen feeds Richards into a SPEAR ON THE APRON by Jacobs! In a flash the momentum shifts and it’s SCUM on top and isolating the American Wolf from his partners. That lasts for several minutes until Davey at last manages to dropkick Corino, who inadvertently DDT’s Jimmy as he falls over. Cole flies in and scores an immediate 2-count with the Shining Wizard. Team ROH are on fire, trapping all their opponents in the corner for a flurry of strikes. Steen doesn’t like that at all and brutally rams Adam’s head into the ringpost…as Elgin PRESS SLAMS Jacobs over the ropes to the floor! TOPE SUICIDA BY DAVEY!

He landed pretty much head-first on that! It’s total chaos at ringside with bodies flying everywhere and the guardrails taking a hell of a pasting. APRON BOMB ON COLE! Corino covers him like an idiot though, and as a result doesn’t eliminate him as he should have. With order finally reinstated it’s SCUM in charge again, this time with Cole alienated from his partners. Of course Cole does eventually find the hot tag though, bringing in Unbreakable who nails Jimmy with a running STO. SAMOAN DROP/FALLAWAY SLAM COMBO on Corino and Jacobs! F-5 countered…Spiral Bomb blocked! Corino and Jacobs pick up Cole for a SPIKE PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR! The match comes to an immediate standstill as Cole’s partners, Nigel McGuinness and a hoard of referees surround the stricken Television Champion. He seems to be carried to the back, leaving Davey and Elgin at a disadvantage – and they are quickly mauled by all three opponents. They target Elgin’s arm, with Steen using a big shoulderbreaker to supplement a variety of arm submissions from Jimmy who’d been in the ring previously. Jacobs rides Elgin in a sleeper hold…but even with Jimmy on his back Unbreakable still manages a DEAD LIFT GERMAN on Corino! That leaves Richards and Steen alone to renew their rivalry. Davey drops the champ on his neck with his own version of a German suplex for 2. Trailer Hitch applied…with an Anklelock on when he tries to break it. Corino saves both his partners with the $10 Punch! Davey is out, so Steen gives him the Package Piledriver to eliminate him at 27:17.

Jimmy busies himself sweeping the coins out of the ring…and Elgin is now effectively alone. Corino is so confident of winning that he sits down to join Kevin Kelly on commentary whilst his partners put a beating on Elgin. Just when all seems lost Adam Cole sprints out from the back like the Ultimate Warrior…and all of a sudden the fight is on again. DEAD LIFT SUPERPLEX ON JACOBS! Cole somehow powers Steen into the cradlebreaker for 2, but is still heavily favouring his damaged neck. FLORIDA KEY ON STEEN! He would have eliminated him there…but Corino drags the ref out of the ring! JACOBS SPIKES COLE IN THE CROTCH! F-5! Cole is eliminated at 33:49, meaning Unbreakable really is at a 3-on-1 disadvantage now. Elgin fights bravely, blasting Steen with the Black Hole Slam then popping straight up for the SPIRAL BOMB ON CORINO! The former ECW Champion is out at 34:55! BUCKLE BOMB ON JACOBS! SPIRAL BOMB! He’s gone too! Jacobs is gone at 35:16! In less than a minute the former Tag Champions are gone leaving Steen and Elgin to battle for victory. Package Piledriver COUNTERED with the Back Fist…only for Kevin to absorb that and nearly powerbomb Elgin through the ring. SLEEPER SUPLEX NAILED! The World Champ climbs to the top for his now customary Steen-ton only for his opponent to get the knees up spot. DEAD LIFT STALLING GERMAN ON STEEN! ROLLED THROUGH…HE F*CKING DOES IT A SECOND TIME! Corino tries to get involved…only for Jay Lethal to run in and brawl with him. The distraction is enough though, as Steen small packages Elgin for victory at 38:56.

Rating – **** – Obviously it’s still early in the year, and I hope ROH has better to come – but as of this show this is my favourite ROH match so far this year. They gave them the time allocation to produce something pretty special and the six men involved certainly delivered. I hated the finish, which felt completely deflating and out of place considering what had come before…but what they had done up to that point was absolutely enthralling stuff. I loved the story they went for, with SCUM using the apron or brawls on the floor to get the advantage – then going back to a big spot on the outside whenever Team ROH started to get back into the match. It allowed Corino and Steen to work at a slower pace when needed, and also meant that Richards, Elgin and Cole could really crank things up and do some spectacular things when they were on offence. Normally I hate it when wrestlers work a big long match, then throw in a flurry of eliminations all at once – but here it was done in such a way that it made perfect sense. Team ROH were handicapped by Cole’s injury spot – hence Davey was eliminated. Cole came back for the inevitable ‘fighting through the pain’ pop, only to be put down again. Elgin then had his time to shine when he beat both former Tag Champions in a minute (which gives him a huge amount of credibility even with the sucky nature of his ultimate defeat). Had they produced a better finish, and given Elgin some believable nearfalls on the champion then I could conceivably have rated this even higher. Lots of the criticism I’ve seen on this match has stemmed from the fact people hated how it ended. And lots more came from the fact that Elgin was made to look like an idiot by it – just seconds after getting a huge boost by beating both Corino and Jacobs in quick succession. I understand both arguments completely, but try not to let it turn you off to what was, for the 38 and a half preceding minutes, a gripping battle of real quality.

Jay Lethal hits the ring to face off with Steen…only to be attacked from behind by Jimmy Jacobs. SCUM put a beating on Lethal and Elgin until the Briscoes arrive to lend a hand. That’s where we fade out…

Tape Rating – *** – It’s not a popular opinion (as I know lots of people loved Defy Or Deny 2), but for me this was the best house show of 2013 thus far. Sure it was inconsistent, with an undercard full of as many misses as there were ‘hits’…but when this show was ‘hitting’ it was really terrific. Strong/ACH was a star-making performance from ACH. It was every bit as good as people have been hyping it up to be, and proves exactly why almost everyone is calling ACH the hottest prospect to come into ROH since Sinclair took over. The main event is great too. It’s a long watch, but if you sit down and let the stories play out around you I promise you’ll enjoy it even with the annoying conclusion. Elsewhere I felt that Whitmer/O’Reilly was a super-underrated match, and Lethal/Thomas was TD’s best ROH match to date too. Sure there was some crap – such as Nate Webb delivering a performance so appallingly bad it actually eclipsed the usual Charlie Haas suckfest – but I thought the good stuff on this DVD was more than enough to make up for those. If you can’t get the DVD this is definitely worth shelling out the $10 to catch on VOD.

Top 3 Matches
3) BJ Whitmer vs Kyle O’Reilly (****)
2) Roderick Strong vs ACH (****)
1) Kevin Steen/Jimmy Jacobs/Steve Corino vs Davey Richards/Adam Cole/Michael Elgin (****)

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