ROH Rising Above 4/29/2012

ROH 303 – Rising Above 2012 – 29th April 2012

Say it quietly, but since when has Dayton had a better card than Chicago? Granted last night’s Chicago Ridge event got the ROH/Chikara festivities…but the line-up for this afternoon’s show is really stunning. The World and Tag Team Championships are both defended in potentially juicy encounters. Matches like Steen/Whitmer and Generico/O’Reilly could light up the midcard…and there’s also the appetising prospect of Strong vs Lethal in a 2/3 Falls Match. Ring Of Honor move their shows from the Montgomery County Fairgrounds (the building they’ve run in this market since 2003) to the more spacious Hara Arena…although didn’t draw more fans and would probably have been better off staying where they were. Even on the DVD menu screen the endless rows of empty seats are unmissable and telling. We’re in Dayton, OH with Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino.

Chris Silvio/Mohammad Ali Vaez vs All Night Express
ANX picked up a big win in Chicago yesterday when they downed the House Of Truth. Presumably they’ll be looking to roll over the OVW enhancement talents here tonight. Vaez has magnificent hair and seemingly zero percent body fat.

Silvio looks tiny in the ring with Titus and King. Do Sinclair edit his matches to make him look taller on TV? Kenny easily out-wrestles him, making him look even more of a dweeb in the opening minutes. Vaez doesn’t do any better, quickly falling victim to the springboard leg drop/Warrior splash combo. Titus tags and everything gets really sloppy for a few minutes with Rhett, Silvio and Vaez all botching something in quick succession. The OVW team seize the initiative as Mohammad drags Rhettski out of the ring for a rough ride into the guardrails. Silvio slows the pace, working repeated chinlocks as he looks to wear Titus out. Vaez tries to take him out of the ring for another guardrail experience, but this time finds it reversed. Rhett drops Silvio with a slingshot shoulder tackle and at last gets the hot tag to King. ROPE RUN BELLY TO BELLY by Silvio! ANX retaliate with simultaneous capo kicks and dropkicks. Titus lands a horrible looking rolling boot/lariat combo, softening Silvio up for the Doomsday Blockbuster. That makes it 2-0 for ANX this weekend – in a time of 09:54

Rating – * – The two OVW guys had no business getting to go ten minutes with a team ROH spent most of 2011 hyping as the future of their tag division. It also didn’t help that a lot of this was really sloppy and Rhett still doesn’t look even close to 100% after that knee surgery. He looks clumsy and lead-footed in the ring, and is still carrying some excess weight too. He was responsible for several AWFUL looking exchanges…

The All Nights are pissed at spinning the wheels on the undercard without a sniff of a Tag Title shot. They believe they are owed one after beating WGTT in a Proving Ground Match…and put the champions on notice that they are coming for them. This would have been more effective if the sound quality in this building wasn’t so bad.

Veda asks Truth Martini how he has prepared Michael Elgin for facing Sampson Walker tonight – a man even bigger than Unbreakable. Elgin doesn’t think even Walker has the power to break him…

Michael Elgin vs Sampson Walker
Ordinarily you’d write this off as an uninteresting enhancement match for Michael Elgin. It is that, but the fact that Elgin has spent his entire ROH career being the ‘big man on campus’ and now comes up against someone even bigger than him interests me. Walker, in his ROH appearances thus far, has looked serviceable in the ring. He hits hard, moves well and can carry his end. This has the potential to be a real hard hitting little battle before the routine victory for Unbreakable.

Much like yesterday, Elgin gets a big pop from the crowd. As you’d expect, these two open up testing each other’s strength. Neither budges in an exchange of shoulder blocks…and when Elgin elbows him in the face Sampson simply shakes it off and hits a massive powerslam. Martini distracts Walker…and EATS ringpost! TURNBUCKLE GERMAN BY ELGIN! They go to the floor and take turns violently hurling each other into the guardrails – every collision with the sheet metal exploding through the mostly empty arena. Elgin tries desperately to get Walker up for the Spiral Bomb – but doesn’t get close and Sampson escapes by superkicking him in the back of the head. Forearms exchanged and still neither man budges an inch. Sampson drops him on his neck with a DVD and scores the closest nearfall of the match thus far. Roaring Elbow from Elgin, then a back drop driver for 2! DEADLIFT GERMAN SUPLEX BY ELGIN! That is freakish strength. BUCKLE BOMB! WALKER NO SELLS FOR A LARIAT! Elgin is an absolute beast!! He traps Walker in a crossface and wins at 09:32

Rating – ** – It was too slow and too long for my taste, but what an unbelievable display from Elgin. That Buckle Bomb spot was jaw-dropping. I’ve re-watched it two or three times and I still don’t know where he found the strength to MUSCLE Sampson up for the move after initially looking like he was going to drop him. Walker has a bright future and would get over with the ROH crowd if he was given an angle or a gimmick (an enforcer in a heel stable perhaps)…but Elgin is ready now. The fans would buy him as World Champion tomorrow if Cornette put the belt on him, and he’s extremely unlucky to be wrestling in a year where Davey Richards is so very obviously the best worker in the promotion whilst Steen is the most over talent. Since he falls somewhere in the middle, he won’t get the chance to run with the top prize…yet.

BJ Whitmer vs Kevin Steen
After his huge win in the No DQ Tag at Unity yesterday, it seems almost certain that BJ will be picking up more ROH bookings in future. He has returned to ROH in tremendous shape and looked good in both his matches thus far. Steen won’t have liked dropping the match in Chicago, so will want swift and painful vengeance for that here in Dayton.

Steen brings Jimmy Jacobs to the ring with him, and the presence of his old rival immediately distracts BJ, giving Steen the chance to sucker punch him. He tries to whip BJ into the guardrails repeatedly – only for Whitmer to keep reversing it. Literally four or five times he takes the match to the outside and fails to do it…so Jacobs again gets the attention of his former tag partner and enables Steen to hit the hanging DDT out of the ropes. Kelly and Corino mention that Steen wrestles in shorts and a t-shirt because Jim Cornette hates it…which I can well believe. Jimmy involves himself again, hitting a Cactus elbow and actually succeeding in sending Whitmer into the rails whilst Mr Wrestling argues with Todd Sinclair. As Corino continues to complain about being ‘demoted’ to the commentary table (as he has done all weekend), Whitmer pops up to floor Steen with an exploder suplex. TOPE SUICIDA through both Steen and Jacobs! Jimmy eats guardrail before he returns to the ring to score a nearfall on Steen with rolling suplexes. Kevin goes upstairs…but dives into Whitmer’s knees with the Steen-ton Bomb! Jimmy Jacobs interrupts for the millionth time, this time trying to stab BJ with the spike. Although that doesn’t work, it allows Steen to hit the F-5 for the win at 09:34

Rating – ** – I was really underwhelmed by this one. These guys had the potential to deliver a fun, hard-hitting midcard encounter…and Steen’s personality is the perfect foil for Whitmer’s highly skilled but sometimes colourless ring style. But (as much as I like Jacobs), the constant interruptions really spoilt it. Every time they built some momentum and got me into what they were doing they then switched to cheap heat and a Jimmy Jacobs spot. This would have been fine for TV, but at a house show it really didn’t cut it.

Kyle O’Reilly vs El Generico
When ROH started announcing the card for this event, I seem to remember this one really getting the internet fans buzzing. Kyle is starting to get some traction as a heel, so the perfect way to really push that aspect of his character is to put him in there with the best babyface on the indies in Generico. There’s no real story to talk about here, but O’Reilly will be desperate to score a big win over the former TV and Tag Champion to continue his own rise up the card.

The opening minutes are even, with Generico backing Kyle up and offering him a clean break…then O’Reilly nearly taking his head off with a roundhouse kick which is ducked at the last second. Next they work the canvas and again it’s too close to call. First advantage goes to Generico as he back flips off the ropes into a jumping heel kick. O’Reilly doesn’t like that and flies into a knee strike right on the jaw. The luchador crumples and Kyle quickly follows up with a running kick to the face. Repeated kicks and knees to the back follow next as the Team Ambition member looks to open up an injury. Strike combinations rain down on the masked man, peppering the head and midsection and he struggles to come up with any response. A dropkick to the small of the back, whilst Generico is tied in the ropes, comes next…and O’Reilly is feeling so confident he even starts a mocking ‘Ole’ chant. A spinning kick to the gut scores…but this time Generico absorbs it and trips O’Reilly straight out of the ring. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA UP THE AISLE! He soars back inside with a flying crossbody and gets a 2 as the pace starts to quicken. Blue Thunder Driver gets another nearfall! Rolling Butterflies from Kyle…into the cross armbreaker. Generico escapes but misses the Yakuza and walks into O’Reilly’s discus lariat. Yakuza Kick misses again, and this time El Generico falls all the way out of the ring! MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON! Generico absorbs the impact…TURNBUCKLE EXPLOIDAAAA! Yakuza Kick nailed this time, but as he sets up the Turnbuckle Brainbuster Jimmy Jacobs runs out and crotches him on the ropes. Somehow that’s not a DQ, and it’s still a disqualification seconds later when Steen attacks Generico either. Eventually it’s ruled a no contest at 14:45 after Kyle O’Reilly gets involved and starts fighting everyone.

Rating – *** – Good match between two great workers, but it’s the second match in a row ruined by Jimmy Jacobs’ interfering which is a real shame. These two are quick, athletic and exciting in the ring so, regardless of the finish, watching them go at it for fifteen minutes was always going to be pretty fun. It could have been even better had Generico chosen to sell the back…but, in fairness, knowing you had this finish booked there’s no need to get overly invested in ring psychology.

Jacobs blinds Generico with the evil white powder as Steen destroys O’Reilly’s ankle with a chair. He wants to make an example out of Davey’s protégé…and puts him in the Anklelock as Jacobs fights off the likes of Mike Sydal and Tadarius Thomas who try to break it up. Finally Davey runs in, and puts Steen in the Anklelock! Jacobs smashes him in the ribs with a chair, before Steen hoists him up for the F-5 ON A CHAIR! More babyfaces (Whitmer and ANX), flanked by Jim Cornette finally run off Jacobs and Steen but the damage is done. Team Ambition and El Generico have all been injured…

INTERMISSION – Veda Scott points out to Mike Mondo that he and TJP are tied at 1-1 in their singles matches thus far. Mondo’s response is as incomprehensible as it is dull

Mike Mondo vs TJ Perkins
As Veda just said, these two have wrestled twice on TV and traded wins. Now they get more time to play with on a live show and look to prove themselves the better man with decisive victory here.

Mondo isn’t interested in going through any of TJ’s fancy mat work – he simply throws Perkins into the corner and punches him in the face repeatedly. That’s actually a smart strategy against TJP, but it doesn’t last and he soon finds himself on the canvas totally bewildered by TJ’s mix of athleticism and wrestling skill. An arm wrench in the rope is his next tactic to stop him…followed by a shoulder tackle into the guardrails and wrapping his arm around the ringpost. Perkins is fighting one-armed…and Mike shows real creativity to tie him in the ring apron then stomp on the arm some more. The injury totally takes TJP off his game and actually has to resort to trading straight punches with Mondo. ELBOW SUICIDA NAILED! Both guys take a horrible landing there, but with Perkins as the one-armed aggressor it meant that Mondo basically smashed his head on the exposed concrete floor. Detonation Kick countered with a small package for 2…then Mondo hits an armbar DDT to further damage that injured body part. Double Arm DDT attempted, only for TJ to counter with a neckbreaker. 450 Splash nailed, and Perkins gets the victory at 08:05

Rating – *** – Say it quietly, but that’s two Mondo matches in a row I’ve really enjoyed (the other being the Matt Taven match on TV). The arm work was exceptionally well done, made perfect sense considering the nature of his opponent, and was pulled off with such creativity and skill that it never felt clichéd or boring. Had Perkins not totally no sold it at the end I’d have enjoyed it even more. Still, for the post-intermission popcorn encounter this was pretty great.

Roderick Strong vs Jay Lethal – 2/3 Falls Match
Not sure why the TV Title isn’t on the line here, but this should still be good. This is the fourth time these two have met in a singles match since Lethal returned last year. Jay had won two in a row against Roddy going into Showdown In The Sun weekend when, with a little assistance from Tommaso Ciampa, he dropped the belt to Strong.

Strong sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to Lethal in the most tone-deaf manner possible to the extent that Jay actually attacks HIM before the bell. They exchange right hands…but after just 00:25 Strong manages to get Lethal’s shoulders on the canvas and score the first fall! The Dayton crowd is audibly shocked, and Roddy is so delighted he leaves the ring and starts doing victory laps at ringside. With no time limit to worry about, he happily stays outside the ring for the next few minutes before Lethal finally goes outside to engage him on the floor. Figure 4 Leglock applied, leaving the TV Champion limping. Strong blocks a headscissors and crotches Lethal…then catapults him into the bottom rope. Some asshole tries to get a ‘boring’ chant going and Strong shoots him a look like he wants to slit his throat. He then takes all that frustration out on Lethal with a barrage of chops and a shoulder barge into the ringpost. With the back successfully hurt, Roddy then sets about working over the leg as well. Jay is fighting hurt now, but shows real resourcefulness as he counters the half nelson backbreaker into a crucifix pin…and that’s enough for him to even the match at 1-1 in 10:47. Strong is pissed and FLOORS him with a Roaring Elbow! Kelly and Corino debate whether Roderick should have solely focused on the back…and Strong seems to answer the question as he clamps on to a camel clutch. Lethal is struggling, and beaten around the ring with Strong needing to go for little more than chops, punches and kicks to beat up the former champion at this point. Finally Lethal has seen enough and returns fire with the handspring elbow then the back suplex neckbreaker for 2. Lethal Combination blocked though, allowing Strong to deliver a running knee to the jaw. Death By Roderick countered with a rana…then the Lethal Combination! MACHO ELBOW SCORES! Strong gets a shoulder up at 2! SICK KICK TO COUNTER THE LETHAL INJECTION…GETS 2! Jay blocks the suplex flip backbreaker…LETHAL INJECTION! He flattened Truth on the way through there, and wins at 19:33!

Rating – *** – Although this wasn’t bad, I’d still consider it a real disappointment. The 2/3 falls stipulation seemed to hinder them rather than help…as both initial falls felt a little rushed and meaningless, with the match only kicking into a higher gear in the last few minutes. These guys have had a number of matches since Lethal’s comeback, and have never really clicked as opponents. Their matches aren’t awful or unwatchable, but none of them have had that spark that takes a decent encounter from good to GREAT. That happened here too. This was good, but nothing outstanding or particularly memorable.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin – ROH Tag Title Match
Rematch from Showdown In The Sun (and a thousand other times) as this feud just keeps going and going. WGTT and the Briscoes just don’t like each other, and this bitter rivalry over the tag straps comes to Dayton. Will a winner be declared here, or will the rules struggle to contain these four volatile individuals once again?

As you might expect, there are no ring introductions for this and the four gentlemen just steam into battle and go straight to the outside trading blows. Since they are ‘wrestlers’, WGTT struggle in that environment but are on a much more even footing when the bout returns to the confines of the ring. Haas hands his team the advantage with a big German suplex…and Benjamin capitalises by hauling him up the aisle for a vertical suplex on the metal entrance ramp. The All Night Express have strolled up the aisle to watch this one…and they are witnessing total WGTT dominance at this stage. In truth not a lot is happening, with lots of Haas and Benjamin chinlocks and generic stomp/punch spots. Jay does eventually get the tag to his brother, who takes it to Shelton with the Redneck Kung Fu. Charlie saves his partner from the Doomsday Device, then Benjamin hits another German on Jay. Leap Of Faith blocked…but the Briscoes block that. ANX and Charlie Haas get into a fight on the floor for no apparent reason, as Mark polishes Benjamin off with the Froggy Bow at 12:15

Rating – ** – Not bad…just completely boring and uninteresting. These guys have been feuding for too long, haven’t ever got close to bettering their 9th Anniversary Show match (which was decent, despite what some critics will say) and are just pissing the ROH fans off by this point. I don’t hate WGTT, but the way these two teams continue to get top billing in the division whilst every other team is made to look like small fry is becoming incredibly frustrating. Look around the arena tonight. It’s basically empty, so clearly Haas and Benjamin aren’t huge draws. I’m not saying there’s not a place for them in ROH, but it’s time to STOP this endless Briscoes/WGTT feud and let both teams do something else. And if Charlie and Shelton are happily pocketing their paychecks and autopiloting their way through tedious snoozefests like this…then why not save the money and use it on the Young Bucks’ airfare next time?

Kenny and Rhett congratulate the Briscoes on their victory, then call themselves the number one contenders. King demands a title shot…and the two teams have to be separated. That’s what I’m talking about. Even if Briscoes/ANX was done to death in 2011, at least it’s a fresh Tag Title match at last. Plus we know these two teams are great in the ring together…

We go backstage to an extremely focused Adam Cole. He calls tonight his breakout moment…

Davey Richards vs Adam Cole – ROH World Title Match
Originally this was already going to be a Proving Ground Match, but Richards told the booking team that Cole had already earned a championship opportunity by pinning him at the 10th Anniversary Show. He demanded the belt be put on the line tonight, even though he has Kevin Steen in the main event of the upcoming Border Wars ippv to think about. Was the Young Wolves Rising win a fluke, or can Cole smash through that glass ceiling and give Dayton their first World Title change since James Gibson beat CM Punk in 2005?

Davey is still selling the rib injury inflicted by Steen and Jacobs earlier in the show. They start respectfully, but as Richards tries to bridge into a kick he buckles in pain. The ribs are causing him serious discomfort, and he leaves the ring for some recovery time. Cole throws an elbow strike, and even when Davey is injured that’s a bad call. Richards takes his head off with a succession of kicks, causing the challenger to leave. RUNNING PUNT from the apron, which Adam bumps like a maniac to sell. JUMPING ENZI blocks a Davey tope suicida attempt…TOPE SUICIDA BY COLE! Richards is in serious trouble, and responds like a cornered animal with a BACK DROP DRIVER ON THE ENTRANCE RAMP! He walks to the ring, clearly so hurt that he’s happy to take a count-out win. Adam crawls back to the ring still feeling the effects of such a damaging offensive manoeuvre on the floor. He swings a punch into the champion’s ribs and gets HAMMERED with a kick to the face! Cole is getting beaten badly now, but is Davey getting overconfident? He starts playing to the crowd, giving the challenger a chance to catch one of those kicks and deliver an enziguri to the back of the head. Shining Wizard gets 2! Handspring Enzi attempted by Richards…but it’s blocked with a superkick! Death Valley neckbreaker nailed, and for the first time Cole has the World Champion reeling. Flying Crossbody…BLOCKED with a dropkick.

Richards lost to that in New York and had it scouted this time. Bridging German from Davey gets 2, and although it takes him some time to follow up it doesn’t seem like his ribs are troubling him as much now. Kawada kicks…SLAPS FROM COLE! ALARM CLOCK! NO SOLD! ROUNDHOUSE KICK! ENZI COUNTERED TO THE ANKLELOCK! Cole escapes and hits a SLINGSHOT DDT ON THE APRON! OCEAN CYCLONE LUNGBLOWER! All damage to that midsection and it leaves Richards rolling around in pain. He desperately throws headbutts at Cole…DOUBLE STOMP THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! Double stomp back into the ring as well, but somehow Cole kicks out. Anklelock applied again, only for the challenger to dive into the ropes. Davey chases him up the turnbuckles and clobbers him with crossfaces. Adam punches him in the ribcage…FLORIDA KEY FROM THE TOP ROPE! FLORIDA KEY AGAIN! GETS 2! FLYING CROSSBODY! DAVEY KICKS OUT AGAIN! Cole feels the momentum shift and he starts decimating Richards with superkicks. Superfly Splash – yet more damage to the ribs – and again it gets 2. Texas Cloverleaf applied, and that’s a signature hold of the champion. Unfortunately Cole isn’t a seasoned submission wrestler and Davey easily counters to the Anklelock. Richards scores with repeated suplexes…but Cole won’t stay down! KICK TO THE HEAD! COLE KICKS OUT! ANKLELOCK! He ties up the legs, and Cole taps at 19:43.

Rating – **** – Best match of the entire weekend right there, and in the context of this live event it was a real show-saver. Cornette gets criticised as a booker, but the decision to use the angle with Steen, Richards and Jacobs earlier tonight really added some drama to this main event. Nobody thought Cole was winning this, but thanks to a semi-decent sell job from Richards and a really spirited main event performance from the challenger, they got the crowd really into it. In the end, I even wanted to see MORE of that drama from both workers – and more of a genuine ruthless streak from Cole. He barely attacked the ribs and played it safe as the babyface challenger. I’d have love to see him cut loose and really work that body part. He’s a great heel in CZW if the fans boo’d him, but I think the ROH audience would have loved to see the young upstart really taking the fight to the champion with aggression like that. These guys need to do a rematch…

Cole gets the usual Davey Richards post-title match endorsements to end the show.

Tape Rating – ** – On paper this show seemed to have a great card. But in deliverance this was a massive let down. Granted the main event was pretty great, but outside that the rest of the card was brutally underwhelming. Running a show in front of a couple of hundred people in an arena which could fit a couple of thousand didn’t help, but honestly, the only match on the whole show (main event excluded) that actually exceeded my expectations and/or didn’t disappoint me was Mondo/Perkins. Strong/Lethal was ok but could have been a lot better. Whitmer/Steen was disappointing as hell. The finish to Generico/O’Reilly was awful. WGTT and Briscoes bored everyone to tears AGAIN. Had it not been for the main event I’d have been labelling this one of my least favourite ROH shows ever. It sounds like I’m being critical, but after the last four shows have been so good, I was really let down by this DVD. Chicago might not have had anything approaching the quality of the World Title match on this show, but Unity was a really entertaining night of wrestling. Davey/Cole isn’t THAT great – so this one is definitely something for the collectors and completists only. Unless you REALLY like Empty Arena Matches…this is a whole DVD full of them.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs Roderick Strong (***)
2) Kyle O’Reilly vs El Generico (***)
1) Davey Richards vs Adam Cole (****)

Top 5 Unity/Rising Above 2012 Weekend Matches
5) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Jigsaw/Hallowicked (*** – Unity)
4) Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Davey Richards/Kyle O’Reilly (*** – Unity)
3) El Generico/BJ Whitmer vs Kevin Steen/Jimmy Jacobs (*** – Unity)
2) The Colony vs Jay Lethal/Adam Cole/TJ Perkins (**** – Unity)
1) Davey Richards vs Adam Cole (**** – Rising Above 2012)