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ROH Pursuit: Night One 11/15/2013

ROH 341 – Pursuit: Night 1 – 15th November 2013

This is the last weekend of live events before we reach Final Battle, so there is everything to play for as we approach the big year-ending extravaganza. In fact, tonight’s show could throw the entire Final Battle line-up into chaos – as Jimmy Jacobs challenges Adam Cole for the ROH World Championship in front of his family and friends in his home state. It’s also Davey Richards’ last weekend in ROH (although presumably he didn’t know that at the time), so it’s fitting he faces his long-time rival Roderick Strong one more time. His fellow American Wolf Eddie Edwards meets Jay Lethal in what should be a strong midcard encounter – and there’s more with Matt Taven defending the TV Title, two triple threats featuring the members of reDRagon, Adrenaline RUSH and C&C WrestleFactory, and Michael Elgin looking to send a message to Jay Briscoe by roughing up his brother, Mark. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino are in Dearborn, MI.

Jay Briscoe crashes the show early – stalking to the ring, carrying the ‘Real World Title’ belt and apparently dressed to fight. He doesn’t think it’s right that Dearborn doesn’t have a title match tonight (Cole’s belt ‘don’t mean sh*t’), so issues an open challenge for his championship right now. Silas Young, who has issues with Mark Briscoe, answers the challenge…

Jay Briscoe vs Silas Young
We know Young has had issues with Jay’s brother, Mark. He’s had pull apart brawls with him on multiple shows, and last time they came into contact (at Glory By Honor) ended with Silas flogging Mark with a belt. So as much as he’ll be looking to take out yet more rage upon the Briscoe family, Silas is presumably also an ambitious man and must realise that defeating Jay tonight (regardless of whether he wins the ‘Real World Championship’ or not) would greatly increase his stock in ROH.

It’s a rough start for Silas, who is beaten and stomped into the corner before he can get any kind of momentum going. Young resorts to running away, and even that doesn’t work for long as he is taken down again with a neckbreaker. Jay Driller blocked…so it’s a mafia kick across Silas’ jaw instead. Young creates a scene by stealing Kevin Kelly’s chair…then he looks to nail Jay with the bell hammer. Mark Briscoe comes out and grabs the hammer off him at the last moment, causing Young to tumble backwards into the Jay Driller. Briscoe wins at 02:41

Rating – DUD – It’s getting some rather mixed reviews, but I quite like this new deranged ‘Real World Champion’ persona they’ve given Jay. The problem is, apart from a few notable exceptions, his singles matches in 2013 really haven’t been up to much. At some point he’ll need to produce a really killer performance if he is to maintain this push. Although I actually gave this the ‘DUD’ treatment because I really didn’t enjoy how they through Silas under the proverbial bus in favour of him. I’m not sure giving Jay this exposure was worth completely burying Silas for.

Bobby Fish vs Cedric Alexander vs Tadarius Thomas
The two teams leading the race to challenge reDRagon both get opportunities to prove themselves here. C&C WrestleFactory finally get their shot at the champions tomorrow night in Columbus, so will view these triple threats tonight as an opportunity to soften up their opponents before that. For Adrenaline RUSH it’s a chance to prove their own championship credentials and perhaps move themselves into pole position for a title shot against whomever is victorious at Pursuit Night 2.

Thomas is from Detroit, so gets a fair amount of hometown support. Fish makes an enemy of both opponents as he badmouths them simultaneously…so of course Tadarius and Cedric instantly team up to beat the snot out of him. But after Alexander drops him with a springboard lariat TD looks to capitalise, and nearly pins him with a sneaky roll-up. They lay into each other with strikes, with Bobby happily watching from the outside. Slingblade gets 2 for Thomas, before Fish returns to the match to break the fall. Back flip capoeira kick floors Bobby! He gets into it on the floor with Cedric…so Tadarius wipes them both out with the SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT! In the ring Fish and Thomas absolutely tee off on each other, delivering some devastating strikes until Bobby scores with the turnbuckle exploder. Alexander catches him with a full nelson facebuster for 2 moments later. He then KNEES TADARIUS IN THE STOMACH! That looked horrifying! Fish spears him into the guardrails seconds later! HALF NELSON SUPLEX from Thomas to Fish gets 2! Impact Explosion Dropkick from Cedric! REBOUND ENZI to counter capoeira strikes from Tadarius! DETONATION KICK! Alexander pins Thomas to win at 08:47

Rating – *** – A typical undercard triple threat match, and at no point were these guys doing anything too remarkable or groundbreaking. However, it was rather entertaining for it’s spot on the show – and gave all three workers the chance to shine. Fish was as good as always, Alexander continued to look like a future main event player in the making, and even Tadarius produced the goods (particularly in some silky-smooth strike exchanges with both his opponents).

Matt Taven vs Zach Gowen – ROH TV Title Match
Anyone remember how long it’s been since Gowen was last in ROH? Outside of a brief flirtation with Age Of The Fall a few years ago he’s never really been a long-term worker…but has cropped up on occasion to work his usual underdog routine (which admittedly is still pretty admirable even if his schtick hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last decade). Tonight he faces Matt Taven, and of course, as per Truth Martini’s mandate, Taven now defends the ROH Television Championship in every match. Can Gowen’s remarkable career produce another shock – by dethroning the longest reigning current Ring Of Honor title holder and earning a permanent spot on the roster?

The House Of Truth are looking past Gowen before the match even begins, as they launch into a promo aimed at Tommaso Ciampa and their Final Battle showdown. Corino points out that Gowen can’t be defeated with a Figure 4 Leglock. Even after a decade of one-legged jokes at Zach’s expense that one made me chuckle. Zach scores with a couple of dropkicks…so Matt clubs him from behind, driving him into the mat. He obliges Corino by attempting a Figure 4 on him. Martini tries to trip Zach on the apron…and when the Detroit-native ducks that Taven is right on cue to score with a springboard enzi. Corkscrew senton gets 2, and is followed by a roundhouse heel kick as Gowen really struggles to make any kind of impression. Hoopla Splash is blocked with a boot to Matt’s jaw…and Zach is up quickly to hit the springboard somersault plancha to the floor. He lines up his moonsault, only for Truth to knock him off the top rope as Scarlett distracts the referee. Climax countered with a schoolboy pin for 2! Gowen lands a flatliner…and nearly grabs victory again. Koji Clutch applied but Gowen can’t apply enough leverage to keep Taven from making the ropes. Moonsault press with Taven hanging in the ropes! This time Martini stops the ref from counting the pinfall! Climax wins it for Taven at 10:59

Rating – ** – I don’t really enjoy criticising Zach Gowen too much, because what he does is absolutely incredible. However, if you’ve seen one of his matches you’ve really seen them all. This was his usual act, combined with the usual House Of Truth act to make a perfectly adequate, completely predictable and quickly forgettable filler TV Title defence for Taven – who’s championship reign remains firmly entrenched in mediocrity unfortunately for him.

Tommaso Ciampa runs out and stops the House Of Truth from assaulting Gowen with one of his own crutches. He challenges Taven to put the TV Title on the line against him tonight…and of course Taven declines.

Eddie Edwards vs Jay Lethal
And from the TV Champion and his top contender, we now go to a battle of two former ROH Television Champions. Both are boxed out of the championship scene in the promotion right now, so need to string some high profile wins to get back into the metaphorical hunt.

We begin with a high octane near-miss sequence, with both men showing real class as they wrestle to a stalemate. They go to a prolonged knucklelock sequence next, which ends with Jay hitting the hiptoss dropkick combo. He delivers another dropkick through the ropes from the floor for 2. Eddie scoops him into a tree of woe though and scores right back with a couple of dropkicks as he hangs there. Lethal trips Edwards to the floor…and hits rolling tope suicidas as Corino BEGS Kelly to do his stupid ‘soaring aaaaaaaaand scoring’ line. Kevin refuses as it’s Eddie’s thing…but gets to seconds later as Eddie hits back with ROLLING ELBOW SUICIDAS! TOPE AGAIN BY JAY! Both guys desperately crawl back towards the ring and narrowly avoid a double count-out. They trade shots in the ring…until Jay hits the Lethal Combo! MACHO ELBOW! FOR 2! Lethal Injection COUNTERED into the back suplex facebuster! Eddie scales the ropes but is caught before he can attempt the double stomp. Superplex blocked by Edwards…double stomp misses! BACKPACK STUNNER! ACHILLES LOCK! And Lethal counters that with a pinning combination for 2! They go CRAZY with pin attempts, and Todd Sinclair is soon gassed trying to keep up with them! BACKFLIP LETHAL INJECTION! Finally Jay puts Edwards away, in a time of 13:40

Rating – **** – This is a pretty generous 4*, but the rest of the show has been rather sub-par to this point, so this probably felt far better in comparison. I enjoy matches like this, where high quality workers such as Eddie and Jay simply showcase their skills. They appeared to be evenly matched, no matter what they were doing – be it mat wrestling, dives to the floor, high impact spots down the stretch. The drama was perhaps lacking (by this point most people had a pretty good idea Eddie’s career was about to progress beyond ROH), but the sheer excellence in the execution of their skills here was a joy to behold

RD Evans vs Hakim Zane
This is the Barrister’s return to in-ring action following his finger injuries at the hands of Outlaw Inc. He issued an open challenge, which was answered by this local worker. Veda Scott announces that Hakim will be the first of a long list of ‘victims’ to RD Evans…

The bell rings, with Corino and Kevin taking bizarre commentary pot-shots at Brian Christopher. Hakim peppers Evans with a flurry of martial arts kicks, and gives him an ugly fall to the floor as he boots him off the apron. Evans hides behind Veda as Zane lines up a somersault plancha…and uses the distraction to crotch the debutant against the ringpost. Abdominal stretch applied, only for Zane to counter with a Russian legsweep. Swinging gutbuster from Evans gets 2. Veda orders RD to the top rope…only to miss the diving headbutt. Hakim capitalises with a falcon arrow for another nearfall. Second rope gutbuster wins it for the Barrister at 05:16

Rating – * – This was more competitive and twice as long as Briscoe/Silas? Seriously? Crazy booking strikes again. Zane looked ok – he was athletic enough in the ring and certainly had the MMA-inspired moveset that ROH have really promoted during the SBG-era. RD Evans is brilliantly entertaining too, and there’s certainly lots for him to do as a singles worker (alongside Veda Scott’s new legal-lackey act) which make him far more interesting than anything his association with QT Marshall could have produced. It doesn’t change the fact that this was still far too long though!

And Veda isn’t done! She wants more victims for RD Evans tonight…and calls out Tommaso Ciampa! He has history with RD…and wastes no time in answering the call. However, Matt Taven and Truth Martini appear to assault Ciampa during his entrance. Taven blasts his surgically-repaired knee with one of Zach Gowen’s crutches. Ciampa limps off to chase those two…leaving RD and Veda in the ring to claim a phony count-out victory to continue the ‘streak’.

Kyle O’Reilly vs ACH vs Caprice Coleman
Having already seen C&C WrestleFactory’s Cedric Alexander score a huge victory in the first triple threat match, both O’Reilly and ACH have lots to prove here. Kyle will want a victory to reassert reDRagon’s dominance ahead of their showdown in Columbus tomorrow evening. Meanwhile ACH knows he needs to pull out an Adrenaline RUSH victory to keep them in the hunt for the belts too. Or will Caprice emulate his partner and give C&C a 2-0 sweep before their big title shot?

O’Reilly leaves the ring to do some stretches, leaving the ring free for Coleman and ACH to go at it. Kyle eventually sneaks in and cheap shots both of them with their back turned…and gives Caprice a nasty shiner almost immediately. His eye swells badly, and instantly you start to wonder how he’ll be able to see by the time we get to Columbus. All three roll around, trading spots at a fast pace…until referee Paul Turner SWEEPS O’REILLY’S LEGS! PAUL PINS KYLE! The crowd goes nuts but O’Reilly, of course, is furious. He leaves the ring…but this time Caprice dropkicks him into the guardrails. ACH and Caprice begin work on their body slam technique at Kyle’s expense but their brief alliance ends when they disagree over who gets to pin him. O’Reilly incapacitates ACH by shoving him into the rails, then goes to work on Coleman. The goal is to wear him down as much as possible ahead of the title shot tomorrow of course. He works a toehold on Coleman, and finds time to trade strikes and fisherman suplex ACH at the same time! Poor Coleman’s face gets hammered again, this time with a shotei by ACH. He then hits a FLATLINER/CUTTER COMBO on both Kyle and Caprice. DOUBLE DRAGON SCREW by O’Reilly! He then dropkicks Coleman INTO a tornado DDT on ACH. Cross armbreaker applied…but broken with a springboard legdrop from Coleman. ROLLING NORTHERN LIGHTS BY CAPRICE! DOUBLE NORTHERN LIGHTS on ACH and Kyle! ACH gives O’Reilly a flatliner into the side of the ring! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON BY O’REILLY! RUNNING Mind Trip by Caprice, and he pins O’Reilly to put C&C WrestleFactory 2-0 for the evening! 15:01 is your time

Rating – *** – If I did half stars this would certainly get an additional half. A fine blend of comedy spots, story-telling and fluent American junior heavyweight professional wrestling. I know it was an accident, but Coleman’s eye injury really helped spice this one up. It really emphasised that Kyle’s main priority here was roughing up Caprice rather than winning. As with the Steen/ACH match, Kelly and Corino really stressed ACH’s ‘annoying’ persona, and repeatedly pointed out that he has a big mouth and isn’t well-liked in the locker room. Whether that is based on fact or not us outsiders will never know – however, in the context of this match it really worked. You had Kyle and Caprice trying to fight each other with tomorrow night in mind…and ACH constantly buzzing around like a gnat making a nuisance of himself.

Mark Briscoe vs Michael Elgin
We opened the show with Jay Briscoe squaring off with Mark’s current rival, and we continue here with Mark doing the same thing for Jay. In the Honor Roll leading up to this show Elgin admitted to being a fan of Mark Briscoe – but his association with Jay means he wants to beat him up here.

We have an early indication of what this match will be about, as Mark scores with a flurry of karate thrusts but is then easily knocked off his feet with a single tackle from Elgin. An ST-Joe knocks Briscoe back again for an early 2-count. Mark hits the Uncle Mule Kick and shows impressive strength to scoop his opponent up for a back suplex. He dropkicks Elgin through the ropes, but misses a flying knee off the apron. Elgin catches him for a BLACK HOLE SLAM ON THE FLOOR! Back in the ring Michael hits a Roaring Elbow, then the dead-lift German suplex for more nearfalls. Diving karate chops from Briscoe…but Elgin refuses to go down! Throat chops next, followed by Mongolian chops, and still Unbreakable stands in the middle of the ring. A tomahawk chop from the top rope finally floors him and softens him up for the urinage. It’s far too early for the Froggy Bow though, and Elgin slaps him straight off the top rope. Dead-lift superplex blocked and countered with the rolling DVD. Silas Young tries to run in and attack Mark…but barely touches him before Jay Briscoe drags him away. Elgin immediately goes after Jay and pummels him…and Mark MOONSAULTS onto everyone! Nigel McGuinness is out here, and the ref decides to throw the match out at 09:47

Rating – ** – This was going along just fine until the garbage finish ruined things. Unfortunately this sort of thing will happen from time to time whilst live events are being used as TV tapings. I liked the power vs crazy Redneck theme they had going through what there was of the match though.

Roderick Strong vs Davey Richards
This turned out to be the final ROH weekend for Davey Richards, so it’s fitting that he gets one more match with old rival Roderick Strong before being unceremoniously dumped out of the back door by the company. When Generation Next decided to disband (at Generation Now), it was Davey Richards who wound up on the team that beat them in their final match. When Roddy needed a lieutenant to help him start his own group, Davey Richards was his first recruit to the No Remorse Corps. And when that group disbanded after Davey turned his back on Strong to join Sweet’n’Sour Inc. it began a near legendary series of matches. They’ve fought in Japan, Canada and the US. They’ve contested epic World Title clashes, been involved in memorable tag team encounters and together have shouldered a major part of the workrate vacuum left when Bryan Danielson went to WWE in 2009. Do they have one more classic in them? Although perhaps the more pertinent question is – will Sinclair and Delirious allow them to produce one more classic?

Everyone shakes hands before the bell – including the ‘Dojo Bros’ (Eddie Edwards is at ringside) so it’s clear we’re going to begin respectfully. They work the mat early, and every time it seems like Richards is starting to control proceedings Strong busts out a counter. They go to strikes instead, with Davey ducking the chops then Roddy diving backwards to evade the Wolf’s kicks. Strong goes to the floor, and ducks the soccer kick from the apron…only for Davey to grab the ropes to counter Roddy’s attempted back suplex on the same apron. Richards scoops Strong up and delivers a backbreaker. It’s gimmick infringement of course…and Strong makes him pay for it moments later as he COUNTERS the Alarm Clock into a cradle backbreaker. Slingshot falcon arrow gets 2 for Mr ROH. Half nelson backbreaker countered, but Strong cuts Davey’s momentum off with a knee to the gut then the Olympic Slam. Davey is struggling with his back now and struggles to follow up even after connecting with a heel kick. Death By Roderick countered…Anklelock countered…STRONGHOLD! And Richards counters that to a small package for 2! Gibson Driver…rolled through to a DOUBLE STOMP! Phenomenal sequence! Richards wants to go upstairs but his injured back means it takes too long and he misses the ‘Invader’ double stomp (that’s what Corino is calling it). Hanging leg grapevine in the ropes instead…only for Roderick to escape and paste him with an enzi. He delivers a massive superplex which leaves both of them writhing in pain. They get back to their feet and absolutely BATTER each other with strikes. GERMAN SUPLEX! NO SOLD! SICK KICK! Both men down! They struggle back to a vertical base and tee off again with kicks and chops. Alarm Clock nailed by Richards. He gets 2 with the Invader Double Stomp then clings on to the Anklelock. Strong wildly tries to counter, eventually grabbing a small package for victory at 14:14

Rating – **** – Corino called this one correctly: ‘two of the best in [ROH’s] history going at it’. It wasn’t on the same level of their era-defining matches from a couple of years ago, but this was still a hell of a contest between two men who are extremely good at what they do, and were massively familiar with each other’s work. As Davey is leaving Roddy was the correct choice to win, but by using a surprise pinfall finish it truly plays up the competitive nature of their rivalry and emphasises just how closely matched they’ve been throughout their respective careers. I get that ROH officials have grown tired of Davey’s reported backstage issues. But even this year he’s been churning out 4*+ matches with ease, and this company will really miss his in-ring ability when he leaves. Nobody other than Bryan Danielson can touch him for in-ring consistency of the highest order in this promotion – not even Roderick Strong.

Adam Cole vs Jimmy Jacobs – ROH World Title Match
These two had a great match at The Hunt For Gold right at the start of 2013, under Proving Ground rules whilst Cole reigned as Television Champion. Cole walked away victorious on that evening, and of course has gone on to become World Champion. Over the same year Jimmy’s career has followed a wildly different path. As a member of SCUM, he followed his leader Steve Corino into battle with Ring Of Honor as part of Steel Cage Warfare at the post-Best In The World TV tapings. When SCUM lost that match he found himself without a job, despite having proved himself to be such a major part of ROH over a number of years. Nigel McGuinness refused to give him a spot, until BJ Whitmer (a former partner, co-Tag Champion and rival of Jacobs) used his retirement speech to petition Jimmy’s case. Nigel relented, and booked Jimmy into a Trial Series. If he could fight with honour he’d win his job back, and if he won more than he lost in the 5-match series he’d earn this shot. Despite losses to Kevin Steen and Michael Bennett, Jacobs managed to emerge with a 3-2 series win after triumphs over Silas Young, Adam Page and Roderick Strong (in a tense finale at The Golden Dream earlier this month). He has subsequently been rewarded with this title shot in his home state. In front of many members of his family and multiple friends, can he throw a major spanner into the Final Battle booking plans with a win tonight? BJ Whitmer is in Jimmy’s corner, and Nigel McGuinness joins the announce team for the main event.

They scrap on the mat, until Cole rather tastelessly slaps Jimmy across the face. He then tries to pin him using the ropes, only for Whitmer to shove his feet away from them. Curb stomp gets Jacobs an early nearfall. Cole tries a tope suicida, but finds it countered with END TIME IN THE ROPES! Obviously that is broken by the ref though…and Cole goes to the outside for an OCEAN CYCLONE INTO THE APRON! That clearly hurt him but Jimmy fights through the pain to land a tornado snap suplex for 2. Contra Code blocked though, and Cole drops him with a Shining Wizard. Florida Key blocked…so Cole goes to the Figure 4 instead! More resilience shown by the challenger, who makes the ropes, then rolls through them to hit a satellite headscissors in the floor. He sprints for a tope suicida…BUT COLE MOVES! Jacobs lands face-first on the hard floor in ugly fashion. Cole capitalises with a short-range superkick and is visibly shocked when Jimmy gets a shoulder up. DVD over the knee nailed, followed by a BARE KNEE Shining Wizard to knock Jacobs silly once more. END TIME OUT OF NOWHERE! And when Cole stands up he hits a reverse rana! NO SOLD! SPEAR BY JIMMY! Both guys crawl towards the ropes, then out through them. Contra Code blocked…SO JACOBS SPEARS THROUGH THE ROPES – OFF THE APRON AND INTO THE GUARDRAIL! As Cole barely crawls back into the ring Jimmy is waiting to hit the rebound Ace Crusher. END TIME! Cole doesn’t tap…COUNTERED TO A CRADLEBREAKER! And Todd Sinclair was floored in the process. Cole thinks about levelling Jacobs with the title belt, but BJ Whitmer slides in to stop him. Jimmy takes the belt…but doesn’t use it to cheat! REDEMPTION! CONTRA CODE NAILED…FOR 2! Wearily Jimmy thinks about the senton bomb, but misses and get nothing but canvas. REBOUND ACE CRUSHER COUNTERED WITH A SUPERKICK TO THE NECK! CRADLEBREAKER! FLORIDA KEY…GETS 2! Jacobs blocks an attempted top rope Florida Key, only for Cole to block the avalanche Contra Code. PANAMA SUNRISE! Cole finally retains the championship at 17:46

Rating – **** – I’m not sure the ‘hometown hero’ aspect of the booking really played out. I think ROH were hoping for a CM Punk/Chicago atmosphere but that really never materialised. However, even without that this was a hell of a main event. Jacobs continued to be the resourceful, scrappy, never say die opponent to a supposed ‘superior’ adversary. Cole threw everything he had at him from apron bumps, bare knee strikes, the Florida Key and multiple attempts to break the rules. But with a little help from BJ Whitmer, Jimmy hung in there and came perilously close to causing a major upset. It was a little corny, but the moment of redemption for Jimmy, where he was given the chance to cheat but spurned it in order to hit his finishing move instead was a lovely moment. The hallmark of the great ROH World Champions is the ability to put on great title defences. The reason people didn’t get behind Jay’s title reign is because he didn’t have any. The reason Kevin Steen isn’t remembered as one of the all-time great runs with the belt is because he was forced into so many filler title defences (Mike Bennett, Mike Mondo, Rhett Titus etc). The likes of Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness and Austin Aries produced 4*+ matches with all kinds of opponents – and the fact that Cole was able to produce a really strong 4* level match here bodes well for him.

Tape Rating – *** – This event was a bit of a mixed bag. There is some crap to sit through, which I presume will mostly become the quick, filler matches at the start of however many TV episodes they pull from this live event. But, if you skip through the crap there is some really good stuff – including three 4* level matches which are worth seeing, and the two reDRagon/C&C/Adrenaline RUSH triple threats which were entertaining enough as well. Ultimately how much you need to see this show depends on your desire to see Cole/Jacobs. Davey/Roddy has been done better on a few occasions, and whilst I really enjoyed the professionalism of the Edwards/Lethal match, it certainly isn’t enough to sell the DVD on it’s own. If you’re a fan of Jimmy Jacobs, seeing him produce a valiant effort to win the ROH Title in his hometown makes this an easy recommend.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs Eddie Edwards (****)
2) Roderick Strong vs Davey Richards (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Jimmy Jacobs (****)

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