ROH Manhattan Mayhem IV 3/19/2011

ROH 280 – Manhattan Mayhem 4 – 19th March 2011

The legacy of Ring Of Honor events bearing the title ‘Manhattan Mayhem’ is infamous. The first instalment in 2005 saw one of the most memorable and critically acclaimed ROH shows ever. Manhattan Mayhem 2 saw a World Title Match so fierce that Bryan Danielson was literally left with his eyes knocked loose from their sockets. And Manhattan Mayhem 3 saw the crowning of the first (and thus far only) 2-time World Champion in Austin Aries. And so we come to the 4th Manhattan Mayhem and once again the card is stacked. Even though this is an afternoon show to avoid a clash with UFC, even though this is a house show and even though ROH is still reeling from losing TV and focused almost solely on the Atlanta ppv’s, this still feels like a big deal. Eddie Edwards cashes in his Survival Of The Fittest-earned title shot to challenge Roderick Strong in the main event, whilst the undercard includes Richards/Daniels II, Kings/LAX, Briscoes/ANX and Bennett/Corino. The turnaway crowd at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom also convinced ROH officials to move their upcoming NYC events back to the Hammerstein. As you may have guessed, we’re in Manhattan, NY. Kevin Kelly and Dave Prazak to provide the commentary.

Michael Elgin/Mike Mondo vs Adam Cole/Kyle O’Reilly
By now you should know that Truth Martini likes to put potential new recruits to the House Of Truth stable through a rigorous induction process to truly determine if they are worthy of a spot alongside he and Roderick Strong. Michael Elgin took several months of trials to finally nail down his spot, and now Mike Mondo steps into the frame. He’s a guy who has been trying to get onto the permanent roster for some time but now claims to have turned to the Book Of Truth for guidance. Can he earn his stripes in both the House Of Truth stable and the Ring Of Honor promotion with a good outing tonight?

The New York crowd get all over the HOT guys with loud ‘Eddie Edwards’ chants. Think people are excited about the main event much? Martini cuts a promo on Elgin’s shoulders WHILST he does squats. O’Reilly and Elgin finally start in a rematch of their Top Prospect Tournament semi-final. Kyle hits a couple of kicks but is soon powered down to the canvas by his opponent. Cole tries to help his partner…so Elgin runs through both of them with a shoulder block. Adam has better luck with Mondo, repeatedly taking him off his feet with armdrags. Future Shock get 2 on him with a nice flapjack facecrusher combo. Mondo wisely tags out but even Elgin struggles now, getting swept to the canvas with a gorgeous kick combo from O’Reilly. He even ducks a kick only for it to land on Mondo’s jaw instead. Kyle tries the missile dropkick off the apron…but Elgin stops him AND his partner doing that with big clotheslines. Elgin takes Kyle into the corner, and visibly smashes him right in the face as he runs through a series of chops and lariats. Tornado DDT COUNTERED TO A TILTA-WHIRL BACKBREAKER! Elgin’s strength is just ridiculous and Mondo takes advantage to level Kyle with a basement dropkick for 2. Eventually Kyle hits a standing tornado DDT variant and dives into the hot tag to Cole. Mondo wants a time-out but gets dropkicked in the ropes instead, then Adam hits his patented flying crossbody for 2. SLINGSHOT REVERSE ELBOW from Elgin shuts him down, and Mondo hits a diving headbutt (after slipping on the ropes and getting slaughtered by the New York crowd for it) for 2. TUMBLEWEED SENTON FROM THE TOP BY ELGIN…MISSES! He tries to lariat O’Reilly, but Kyle floors him with his discus lariat and would have won it there but for Mondo’s intervention. ELGIN PICKS UP BOTH OPPONENTS…SAMOAN DROP/FALLAWAY SLAM COMBO SCORES! Future Shock recover to hit their DOUBLE LUNGBLOWER COMBO on Mondo. For some reason he kicks out of that, then loses to a German suplex seconds later at 12:22

Rating – *** – The last time we were in New York, Cole and O’Reilly cemented their status as top up and comers with an amazing performance in the opening match. Tonight was Michael Elgin’s turn to do the same thing. Some of the feats of strengh he pulled out in this match were incredible – hell, before the match doing squats with a guy cutting a promo on your shoulders was impressive enough. Mondo was an obvious weak link, but even he was clearly busting his ass to make Future Shock look good which I appreciated. Nice to see Kyle and Adam actually score a rare win too.

Mike Mondo’s request to join the House Of Truth is formally rejected after that loss. Martini delivers his negative verdict, then Elgin lays waste to him with the Spiral Bomb.

Grizzly Redwood is happy to be back on familiar ground – fighting The Embassy tonight. He wants to ‘chop down’ Prince Nana’s latest project.

Tommaso Ciampa vs Grizzly Redwood
I think a few people moaned about ROH booking this match at the time, but it makes perfect sense. Nana’s old Embassy spent months feuding with Redwood. Hell, even Necro Butcher couldn’t find a way to permanently put the Littlest Lumberjack down. If Tommaso can get a clean, decisive, clinical victory over a guy the ‘old Embassy’ failed to put down in nearly 2 years of feuding it’s a major statement as to how much the ‘Project’ has improved Nana’s faction.

Redwood tries to be evasive and stay out of the clutches of Ciampa, grabbing headlocks and using his fleet footedness to move away as soon as Tommaso looks set to counter. Indeed, after two and a half minutes of the match Tommaso hasn’t managed to put together any sustained periods of offence at all and finds himself being smashed into the guardrails. Grizzly is doing so well he finds time to plant a kiss on Princess Mia for good measure. SHE DROPKICKS HIM IN THE FACE! Did she do that in heels? Ciampa at last does something for himself, getting 2 with a neckbreaker. He beats the hell out of Redwood in the corner, scoring another nearfall with a running knee to the face…but then Grizzly goes back on offence with a sleeper hold. The crowd is now bored and are sarcastically chanting ‘Match Of The Year’ if you’re interested. Grizz nearly snatches a win with a hurricanrana, but goes for a second rana and finds it countered with PROJECT CIAMPA! Tommaso wins at 07:52

Rating – DUD – This was absolutely awful. By that I mean, if ROH are serious about wanting to get Tommaso over to an ROH audience even though he still looks pretty green and clearly doesn’t have the usual degree of wrestling ability the Ring Of Honor fans expect to see…why the hell are they booking this match to go the best part of 8 minutes and have it almost entirely consist of Grizzly Redwood beating him up? Hell, until Mia Yim helped him out, Tommaso got his ass kicked without getting a single move in the first five minutes. To me, that is downright awful, and I really hope it was just these guys wrestling a lousy match rather than having this set out to them by Delirious and/or Cornette. After a good match in Boston yesterday, not decisively squashing Redwood here is a setback for Ciampa.

Steve Corino has to come out and save Grizzly Redwood as The Embassy try to assault him. Mike Bennett makes his entrance soon after, wearing a Boston baseball jersey to juice every last little bit of heat out of the live crowd. Steve tries to get out of his match with The Prodigy because if they fight, he can’t promise to stay on his ‘recovery wagon’. Say what you want, but Bennett is already head and shoulders above almost everyone else on the roster when it comes to promos. Eventually he bates Corino into a fight by insulting Kevin Steen…

Steve Corino vs Mike Bennett
These two have had problems for weeks. The Prodigy and his coach Bob Evans vigorously objected to Corino’s opinions and assistance during the Top Prospect Tournament and, upon winning that, took his frustration out on Corino in a 2-on-1 assault. Last night’s show in Plymouth started with another Corino/Bennett brawl too. These two don’t like each other, but Corino doesn’t want to ‘fall off the wagon’ and resort to his evil ways of old, even though he wants to beat the hell out of Bennett.

Corino starts with punches and a dropkick prompting Mike to turn and run away. But brawling on the floor is nothing new for Corino who teeters on the ‘edge’ of the wagon as he pursues his opponent out of the ring and violently introduces him to a few guardrail sections. Bennett is rattled, arguably for the first time since he re-debuted last year, and misses an uncharacteristically wild pescado attempt. Corino tries a tope suicida and Mike counters it with a dropkick…but he doesn’t learn so tries to go to the top rope instead. Again Bennett has a counter – this time a superplex – and gets a 2-count. They trade punches leading to the Colby Shock and a nearfall for Corino. Eternal Dream scores too but The Prodigy kicks out of that as well. Bennett goes for the Side Effect but Steve COUNTERS to the Thumb In The Bum! But he’s so upset at falling off the wagon he misses Bob Evans sneaking in to punch his lights out. ROLLING Side Effects from Bennett…for 2! A third Side Effect wins it at 09:36

Rating – ** – I love the booking around this, and this program and match did far more for Bennett than the Ciampa/Redwood farce that came before it did for Tommaso. However, the reality is these two aren’t ever going to be the most fun to watch wrestling together. So whilst I’m enjoying the story and some of the exchanges here were cute, as an actual match it didn’t quite ‘reel me in’…

Bennett and Evans continue beating on Corino, eventually leaving him laying with a piledriver. Several minutes later Steve shuns the assistance of several referees to walk out by himself and receives a standing ovation for doing so.

All Night Express vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
We’ve seen these two teams wrestle previously and, when it comes to tag team competition, the Briscoes have always seemed to have an edge on the All Nights. But as ANX refocused and stepped up their game towards the end of 2010, we saw several Briscoes/ANX singles matches which showed that King and Titus are more then capable of competing at the level of Jay and Mark. Now, after coming so close to capturing the ROH Tag Titles at the 9th Anniversary Show, ANX will want to springboard back into the hunt for those belts, as well as proving they are now a legitimate elite team in ROH by defeating the ROH veterans tonight.

After receiving a mixed response from the crowd at Final Battle, the Briscoes don’t look particularly pleased to be back in New York in front of them. There’s lots of pushing and shoving between the teams before the bell even rings, and from the second Titus slaps Jay in the face you can see how up for the fight both teams are. The All Nights seize the initiative and try to work Mark over, getting an early 2 with the springboard leg drop/running splash combo. But the Briscoes are no strangers to combo moves, with Jay joining his brother to hit a big boot/German suplex combo on Rhett. Briscoe Biel follows soon after with King the victim. Jay seems to be bleeding from the side of the head, and is stuck on the apron as Titus and King again start joining forces to get the better of his little brother. King and Jay start brawling on the floor…so Rhett throws himself at both of them with a somersault pescado. And that turns out to be a bad move as it means he turns his attention away from Mark who arrives on the scene to start bashing his head into the guardrails. He comes up bleeding and is greeted by an angry Jay who starts clubbing at the laceration with some really nasty-looking punches. The Briscoes have sneakily started working heel here, with Jay distracting the ref whilst Mark hauls Rhett back to the outside for a suplex on the floor. Mark is being really brutal tonight, tagging in and mauling poor Titus with some sick crossface shots. Jay tries the Super Sex Factor…but Titus COUNTERS with the snake eyes! Hot tag to King, and the crowd are absolutely red hot for this now. He kicks Mark in the back of the head with an enzi then gets 2 on Jay with a spinebuster. Royal Flush countered by Jay as Mark hits the Iconoclasm on Titus on the other side of the ring. Urinage drops him on his neck for 2. He tries the second rope Ace Crusher but Rhett blocks it…only for Jay to haul him out of the corner with the Orange Crush. On the floor King sprints at Mark for SHOTGUN KNEES AGAINST THE BARRIER! Rhett blocks the Jay Driller but a hurt Mark crawls in to stop him hitting the Muff Driver. Springboard Doomsday Device…but Rhett DUCKS into a victory roll. HE WINS! 14:04 is your time

Rating – *** – We’ve seen Jay and Mark work a lot of singles matches this year, mostly because after ending their feud with the Kings at Final Battle, there’s not much left for them to do as a tag team. That was until this match. ANX have reached the level where they are a credible-enough team to be given a full scale ‘feud’ with the Briscoes, and the idea of turning Jay and Mark heel against them definitely makes the whole thing feel very energised and fresh. The whole match felt very much like the ‘first in a feud’, and if this is how good their initial skirmishes are, I am completely interested in seeing more from them. After Kings/ANX in Chicago and this, I think it’s fair to say ANX are set for really big things in 2011.

The Briscoes can’t believe it and angrily attack King and Titus as they celebrate their upset victory. Jobbers come out to try and pull them off but they start beating those guys up too. Titus was already bleeding, and has nothing left as they set up for a Spike Jay Driller on the floor. KING SAVES WITH A SUICIDE DIVE! He flips out and beats the SH*T out of Jay! All four start brawling wildly and the bodies of jobbers, security, officials and anyone else at ringside scatter. In the end Jay and Mark lay ANX out with chairs and walk out…but Kenny and Rhett are soon on their feet and get lots of babyface heat on the way out. Go to the bonus features and see these teams have to be pulled apart again after another brawl breaks out in the locker room later in the evening

TJ Perkins vs El Generico
When this match was announced I know lots of people were extremely excited about. TJP has looked great since returning to ROH at Tag Title Classic 2, whilst Generico is one of the most consistently exciting and outright fun workers on the roster which means this should be an entertaining encounter.

Much of the opening period is a stalemate – with Perkins getting an early knockdown with a dropkick only for Generico to come up with armdrags and the mounted Hispanic punches in the corner. TJ uses his freakily complicated chain-wrestling sequences to retaliate, tying Generico in knots then driving a flurry of kicks to the exposed ribs whilst he has the arms captured. Skullf*ck gets 2. They trade strikes, and just when TJP looks to have bested the luchador with his kicking ability Generico drops him with a Michinoku Driver, followed by the Blue Thunder Driver for 2. Perkins hangs in the ropes to avoid the Yakuza then frees himself to hit a sit-out powerbomb. DOUBLE STOMP TO THE THROAT! Still reeling from that, Generico can do nothing to stop TJ locking in his cloverleaf submission. He escapes to hit the Yakuza Kick…BRAINBUSTER COUNTERED TO THE GO TO SLEEP PELE KICK! TJ TRIES A TOPE SUICIDA…AND GENERICO CATCHES HIM FOR A BRAINBUSTER ON THE F*CKING APRON! Generico wins at 07:30

Rating – *** – Every review I’ve seen of this show complains about how short this match is, and I completely agree. I won’t go overboard on criticising it, as these guys did a fine job with their minimal time allocation even if nothing until that finishing sequence was remotely memorable at all. One thing I will say is – who the hell booked these guys to get LESS time than Tommaso/Grizzly?

Kings Of Wrestling vs LAX
After beating the All Night Express in Chicago, the Kings got a little too cocky in a backstage interview and were busted by Homicide criticising Puerto Rico. Of course, he hasn’t earned a Tag Title shot so the belts aren’t on the line, but Homicide promised he’d bring a friend to join him in his hometown to fight Hero and Claudio and he has delivered. He has recruited his former tag partner in TNA, Texas Wrestling Academy graduate Hernandez, who appears in ROH for the first time since the Return Of The 187/Ring Of Homicide 2 weekend.

The NYC fans have always loved the Kings, so LAX’s TNA routes mean that the red-hot crowd is probably 60-40 in favour of the KOW despite this being Homicide’s hometown. Cide starts with Hero and uses his lucha skills to outwit him. Claudio tries to use his size and power on the Notorious 187, so Homicide tags Hernandez who is even bigger and stronger. Castagnoli drops the big man with a clothesline and duly celebrates but moments later Hernandez gets back to his feet and totally smashes him with a clothesline of his own. STALLING suplex by Double C…so Hernandez no sells it and holds Claudio in the air even longer in the same move. Claudio’s head is purple he holds him in the air for so long…but as he goes down Hero sneaks in and suplexes Homicide over his knees. Hero starts stiffing Homicide…WHO SPITS IN HIS FACE! Hero nearly kicks his head off for that! Castagnoli goes for the springboard uppercut only for Homicide to counter in mid-air with the Ace Crusher! Tag to Hernandez who comes in and starts dominating the Kings again. Claudio grabs him, are you kidding me? UFO ON HERNANDEZ! GETS 2! Hernandez skins the cat up the turnbuckles only for the equally athletic European to spring up the ropes after them with a kick. Royal Power & Glory gets 2 again…then Hero hits him so hard with an elbow that Chris himself falls off his feet. Hernandez still won’t stay down though, and is soon up muscling Hero into a tilta-whirl backbreaker. Three Amigos on Castagnoli, broken with an elbow strike from Hero. Border Toss…BLOCKED with the Roaring Elbow! Homicide sends Hero out of the ring with a tornado DDT then calls Hernandez towards him. HERNANDEZ BORDER TOSSES HOMICIDE UP THE AISLE AT THE KINGS! RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE BY HERNANDEZ! Homicide hits a flying splash on Hero and Claudio has to make a last gasp save to keep the match alive. Del Rey distracts Cide as Hagadorn hands him the Loaded Elbow…but Homicide steals it! ROLLING FLASH KICK/BICYCLE KICK COMBO! RUNNING UPPERCUT BY CLAUDIO! Kings win at 17:11

Rating – **** – I think a lot of people were sceptical about this match. Sure the Kings are in the middle of arguably the strongest ever Tag Title run (although I’d argue the Wolves in ’09 and the Briscoes in ’07 were just as good) but Homicide has been inconsistent since returning and Hernandez is a TNA guy which never goes down well in ROH. But, credit to all involved, this was a blast. Admittedly there wasn’t much intelligent wrestling to be found, but the Claudio/Hernandez stuff at the start was fun and the end as all four threw spots at each other really brought the crowd to their feet. I always find it weird that TNA don’t do more with Hernandez as every time I see him he looks like an absolute beast. He has the size and skills to dominate that promotion if used right in my opinion.

In the back after the match Hernandez consoles a disappointed Homicide, who’s ROH career is in a tailspin at the moment. Julius Smokes walks in to shout incoherent nonsense at him. It’s either a prelude to a Rottweilers reunion, or to J-Train becoming his manager again. Neither of which happened…

Christopher Daniels vs Davey Richards – Pure Wrestling Rules Match
This continues the American Wolf’s storyline of wanting to face the toughest competition possible to prepare himself for his next title shot. This year he’s faced some of the best in ROH, be it in tag team matches, or in singles matches against the likes of Hero, Claudio, Cabana or TJP. But this may well be his stiffest challenge to date as he faces reigning TV Champion Chris Daniels in a rematch of their epic bout in Chicago last November (which was so good they named the show after it). Daniels comes into this fresh off taking and retaining the Television Championship from Davey’s tag partner Eddie Edwards so Davey will be looking to win for both himself and his friend. Not sure where the Pure Rules stipulation has come from since neither were heavily involved in the ROH Pure Title scene back in the day. But I guess it makes sense since they want to test themselves, and fight honourably.

The TNA-haters are vocal again, to the extent that they are as loud as Daniels’ entrance music on DVD. I’m pretty sure he was already back in the Orlando promotion by this point, although he retains enough fans to get a lengthy duelling chant exchange going as the bell rings. Both men go for early submissions trying to force their opponent into wasting early ropebreaks. Daniels sneakily throws an illegal closed fist, but as the referee doesn’t spot it he isn’t given an official warning. He starts working the neck, dropping it over the apron then dragging Richards down into a neckbreaker for 2. Davey has been knocked loopy and Daniels takes advantage by applying a HANGING CHOKE in the ropes. Even though it was involuntary, the Fallen Angel demands it be counted as a break and referee Paul Turner agrees meaning Davey is down to 2 remaining ropebreaks. Next he applies a shortarm scissors variant, forcing Richards to the ropes and taking his second break moments later. Davey tries to retaliate with kicks but is feeling the effects of that neck injury. SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Handspring Enzi scores for 2 moments later and, credit to him, he comes up selling the neck. Texas Cloveleaf locked in (WITH neck selling!) and that drives Daniels to the ropes to use his first break. Davey tries to put him straight back in the Cloverleaf only for Fallen Angel to grab his legs and come close to forcing a double pin. Anklelock applied…and that’s Daniels using his second ropebreak now. Kawada Kicks by Davey…PALM STRIKES FROM DANIELS!

Alarm Clock scores…but Daniels no sells to hit the running STO into the Koji Clutch. COUNTERED to the Anklelock! With one break to go both men are trying hard to counter out of holds and preserve it rather than use the ropes. Back to the Koji Clutch and Richards does succumb to the temptation of using his final ropebreak. He leaves the ring…and lures Daniels into missing an Arabian press. Daniels lies prone over the rails as Richards goes upstairs. TOP ROPE MISSILE DROPKICK INTO THE GUARDRAIL! Naturally that hurts Davey almost as much as it hurt his opponent. Superplex…ROLLED INTO THE FALCON ARROW ARMBREAKER! Daniels grabs the ropes so now both competitors are out of breaks. Machine Gun Kicks in the ropes by Davey – which is now entirely legal. He tries a DVD on the apron…but it’s COUNTERED TO A KOJI CLUTCH IN THE ROPES! Awesome stuff, but Richards falls out of the ring before Fallen Angel can force a submission. Urinage slam nailed, but the BME misses! STRIKE DUEL! Daniels realises he will lose there to drags Richards to the ropes for another hanging choke. COUNTERED TO AN ANKLELOCK IN THE ROPES! Daniels escapes by toppling Davey to the floor with a hurricanrana! They fight in the corner…FRONT CHOKE ON THE TOP ROPE BY DANIELS! TREE OF WOE CLOVERLEAF BY RICHARDS! Then a double stomp to the back! SHOOTING STAR PRESS ATTEMPT…AND DAVEY NEARLY CUTS HIMSELF IN HALF ON THE TOP ROPE! HOLY SH*T! He grabs the win with a roll-up at 21:45, but most people are glad he’s still alive after that crazy botch!

Rating – **** – A worthy successor and companion to their first match in Chicago. By design this wasn’t supposed to be as ambitious or grand as that match (we still have the main event to come don’t forget), but these two are so good that even taking it down a notch they still worked a hell of a match. The Pure Rules psychology was a lot of fun, particularly from Daniels who used all his veteran experience and history with heelish tactics to get the edge on his opponent. Of course lots of people will come away talking about that horrifying SSP ending, but since Davey survived unharmed, I’m not going to dwell on it too much. As Prazak pointed out on commentary, it even played into the psychology of the match in that he was so worn down by Daniels’ attack on the head and neck that he messed it up. I hope people don’t seriously want to reduce any rating of the match as a result of that, because the 21 minutes and 35 seconds that came before it were truly outstanding.

Daniels, devastated at the loss, nearly walks out without following the Code Of Honor and is clearly irate as he leaves – kicking the guardrails in frustration.

Roderick Strong vs Eddie Edwards – ROH World Title Match
Current World Champion Roderick Strong has produced some really entertaining title matches this year. His bloodbath with Jay Briscoe at Only The Strong Survive, and the hard-fought and athletic bout with El Generico at SoCal Showdown 2 were both roundly praised critics and fans alike. But this is clearly his highest profile defence of the belt thus far in 2011. After overcoming the challenge of Davey Richards last time in New York, tonight he faces the other half of the American Wolves in Eddie Edwards. Eddie has had a tough 2011 to this point – missing the start of the year with a Japan tour then losing his TV Title to Christopher Daniels. He’s very short on wins recently too, but opted to cash in the title shot he earned by winning Survival Of The Fittest last year here tonight hoping to turn his fortunes around. And, he at least has momentum on his side after successfully beating Strong’s House Of Truth ally Michael Elgin in a physical bout last night in Plymouth.

Strong starts the match by sending Truth Martini to the locker room which is quite surprising. They work the mat early and, after trying unsuccessfully to put Edwards in his own Achilles Lock, Roderick boots him square in the face. Chops blocked, duelling dropkicks both miss…so Eddie lands a rana and busts Roddy’s chest open with some chops. He smiles then exposes the chest for another chop, causing more blood to flow. Strong doesn’t look pleased since ‘chopping hard’ is his gimmick, and responds by choking the challenger in the corner. Climbing Wizard knocks Strong back, before they return to stiffing the crap out of each other. Death By Roderick countered with the Doi 555, then Edwards hangs Strong in a tree of woe to deliver more chops to the exposed chest. He back tracks all the way up the ramp, taking a HUGE run up to deliver a dropkick. The contact isn’t great though, and Strong recovers quickly to violently toss Eddie out of the ring. BODY SLAM INTO THE SIDE OF THE RING! Edwards tries chops again but this time gets mauled, pummelled and generally battered motionless against the guardrails. Half Nelson Backbreaker blocked…but so is the Backpack Stunner which allows Roderick to lock in the Stronghold for the first time. No submission there, but serious damage done to the back.

He tries a Gibson Driver on the apron…MID-AIR COUNTER INTO A RANA TO THE FLOOR! ELBOW SUICIDA NAILED! Strong appears to have suffered a cut as well, meaning his chest and head are now both heavily bleeding. Eddie responds by landing multiple kicks to the head for 2. Flying Codebreaker rattles the skull too but still only a nearfall. Strong is weary and hurt, so shows great resilience to lift Edwards into a side slam. 2k1 Bomb blocked into the Black Superkick! TURNBUCKLE BACKBREAKER GETS 2! Both men are running on fumes now, and get up to start KILLING each other with chops. Just when it threatens to degenerate into a complete Kobashi vs Sasaki tribute act, they break out something different as Strong lands a jumping knee, then Eddie returns fire with a superkick to leave both of them down. LARIATOOOOO blocks the Sick Kick! Strong is so beaten up be rolls to the ropes and clings to them whilst taking a breather. Eventually the fight spills to the top turnbuckles. DOUBLE STOMP TO THE APRON by Edwards! Followed by double stomp to the back! ACHILLES LOCK! Truth Martini returns to the ring…and gets kicked by Edwards! BLACK SUPERKICK! DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK! EDDIE KICKS OUT! Nobody expected that! SUPLEX FLIP BACKBREAKER GETS 2! STRONGHOLD! COUNTERED TO THE ACHILLES LOCK! STRONG STARTS KICKING EDDIE IN THE FACE! ROLL-UP! EDDIE WINS! EDDIE WINS! NEW CHAMPION! It’s over at 25:35

Rating – **** – You could see how much these two have worked Pro Wrestling NOAH in recent months, as this would have felt right at home taking place in the Budokan. If nothing else, these two went out here determined to absolutely beat the sh*t out of each other – be it with elbows, chops, kicks, headbutts or any other body part that can be used to inflict punishment. I know lots of people called this an MOTYC so, in comparison, I’m going to look like I’m being critical if I don’t, but I don’t think it quite got to that level of greatness no matter how memorable the closing stages were. But whilst for actual wrestling quality Richards/Daniels was better, for fun spots Kings/LAX was better too…for drama, excitement and a genuine big-match feel that can’t be replicated, this match absolutely delivered and I commend the two athletes. I have a number of criticisms about the booking of the World Title in recent months (more on that shortly), but I think I need to make it clear that this was a great match and I’m so happy for Eddie. In a non-kayfabe sense, he absolutely deserves the belt. Nobody has worked harder than him in ROH for the past couple of years and his win here caught everyone off guard and delivered an incredibly memorable moment.

Despite my reservations about the booking, you can’t deny the electricity in the air as Todd Sinclair’s hand hits the mat for the third time. The building just erupts, with people jumping and dancing all over the place. And there’s a second, even louder pop when Bobby Cruise actually announces him as champion, as if half the crowd thought it was a mistake and didn’t believe Eddie was really going home with the belt. As much as I don’t like them rushing his win, it’s impossible to not feel elated for Eddie Edwards, who has been absolutely crucial to the survival of this company since the end of 2008 when he started getting a big push with the American Wolves.

Cary Silkin is in the ring hugging the sh*t out of him, whilst guys like Cole, O’Reilly, TJP, Homicide and Corino surround the ring and applaud the new champion. Davey Richards is in the ring, and just when people thing the Wolves are going to break up over the belt, he breaks into a huge smile gives Edwards a hug as well.

SIDENOTE – So now I’ve clarified that I loved the match, I’m going tear into the booking. I know many won’t share my views, but I STRONGLY disagree with the decision to give Edwards the belt here, no matter how happy I am for him personally. If ROH wanted to take the belt off Strong, they should have done so in December when everyone was begging Davey Richards to win. By putting Roddy over Davey there, they effectively gave Strong the vote of confidence. They effectively said ‘no, you’re not a transitional champion – go run with the ball’. And he’s done a decent job as champion. There were some cool storylines emerging with Generico, Daniels and Richards all having strong claims to rematches. Davey and Roddy have heat, and we’re in the middle of a big ‘Davey training for a title match’ series of matches for him – all of which surely would serve as build to the big Strong/Richards rematch. And we come to this title change despite the fact Edwards has hardly won a match all year and, at the most recent ppv, couldn’t even beat the TV Champion despite having 30 minutes to do so. The point being – why take the belt away from Roddy when they already passed up the best opportunity to do so, when his title reign was starting to build momentum and get over, and to a challenger who with no build up at all?

My opinion is that this was a snap, panic decision to give Edwards the belt. ROH has lost TV, and has big PPV’s in Atlanta promote. Without television and in danger of sinking into a rut, I think Delirious, Cornette and Cary decided to try to generate a buzz, cause controversy and grab a few headlines by unexpectedly switching champions. And it worked to be fair, people were really talking about ROH again, and with ppv’s to promote it makes sense. But in my opinion it was short term gain. Everyone knew Davey was the face of ROH by this point and HAD to be champion sooner or later. Of course, everyone loved the Best In The World 2011 Edwards/Richards match, but that is a match that is guaranteed to draw (in ROH terms). Why rush that to June when you could stretch Strong vs Richards to that point then spend the rest of the year working storylines around Davey vs Eddie? They could have stretched the chasing pack hunting Roddy as champion until the June iPPV – and had Davey beat Strong there to begin the Sinclair era. All switching the belt to Edwards does is get cheap publicity now but at the expense of making Eddie’s run with the belt a brief and transitional one – and in my opinion Eddie is one of the most popular and hard working athletes on the roster therefore deserves better than that. They easily could have got a year’s worth of World Title storylines here…but panicked and blew it on a Saturday afternoon title change for the sake of being ‘unpredictable’. And after failing to give the belt to McGuinness, Black and Richards when they should have done, it makes me so mad that the one guy they decide to hotshot the belt to at the first time of asking is actually going to be worse off as a result of it.

By the end of 2011, having rushed into the one ‘dream match’ they haven’t overkilled, people were bored of Davey/Eddie. People were bored of the Strong/Eddie/Richards main event scene. People were sour on Richards as champion, but since they already blew Eddie’s title reign needlessly in transition here, Edwards isn’t an option to take the belt from him as that would be stale and old too. In essence, the booking decision here hugely dented the credibility and long term drawing potential of THREE of ROH’s main event guys…and by the end of the year that would really be a problem considering those three were the only people left in the main event scene. Strong’s title reign is cut off just as it was getting good, Eddie is dead in the water as a transitional champion keeping the belt warm for Davey…and Richards is left waiting so long for the belt that he ends up less popular (like Tyler and Nigel before him) and by the time he wins it, people care less and even actively dislike him for dethroning the equally popular Eddie Edwards.

Tape Rating – **** – Great show – easily as good as the 9th Anniversary Show which I previously had down as the best show of the year. Although it didn’t flow as well top to bottom as the Chicago show there plenty to enjoy on the undercard, whilst the main event matches were all excellent. Admittedly nothing was quite as good as Daniels/Edwards, but with the big World Title change, the Kings/LAX spotfest, the Richards/Daniels clinic, ANX/Briscoes breaking down into a near-riot, Michael Elgin’s coming out party in the opener and Generico/Perkins producing one of the best 6-minute matches ROH has ever done it’s impossible to deny that this was a major show that delivered in a MAJOR way. I can complain about the booking all I want (and have), but as a standalone experience, the emotional main event alone is enough to warrant picking up this show for.

Top 3 Matches
3) Kings Of Wrestling vs LAX (****)
2) Davey Richards vs Christopher Daniels (****)
1) Roderick Strong vs Eddie Edwards (****)

Top 5 Defy Or Deny/Manhattan Mayhem 4 Weekend Matches
5) Davey Richards vs Claudio Castagnoli (**** – Defy Or Deny)
4) Kings Of Wrestling vs LAX (**** – Manhattan Mayhem 4)
3) Eddie Edwards vs Michael Elgin (**** – Defy Or Deny)
2) Davey Richards vs Christopher Daniels (**** – Manhattan Mayhem 4)
1) Roderick Strong vs Eddie Edwards (**** – Manhattan Mayhem 4)

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