ROH Southern Defiance 12/3/2011

ROH 293 – Southern Defiance – 3rd December 2011

I’ve mentioned before that I think it’s a terrific idea for ROH to start bundling weekends of ‘lesser’ live shows as double DVD sets. Even if it’s not the sole revenue stream, the income from DVD sales is still important, and packaging two shows for the price of one has to be a selling point. This weekend was particularly significant because the SBG cameras came to house shows for the first time, and taped content for broadcast on the TV show. In essence, episodes of the TV show became hour long commercials for this ‘Battle In The Carolinas’ DVD double pack and, unlike some of the things ROH has done over the past year, I think that makes great business sense. And more credit to ROH because the presentation of these DVD’s is absolutely outstanding. High quality cover art, moving menus, VQ drastically improved etc. Finally, for the first time since 2009 when ROH took over their production in-house, the finished product looks really professional.

The line-ups for both shows this weekend are solid without being overwhelming. Obviously tomorrow night’s marathon 8-Man Tag took all the headlines and, to be frank, I’ve not heard much at all about tonight’s debut in South Carolina. The line-up isn’t bad though, with Lethal/Perkins, ANX/Bucks, Briscoes/C&C, WGTT/HOT and Edwards/Generico – on top of Honor Rumble 3 as the main event. I’ve been suckered in by ROH b-shows which looked strong on paper but left a bad taste in my mouth…and the Royal Rumble format has never felt like particularly comfortable fit for Ring Of Honor either – but I’ll keep an open mind. We’re in Spartanburg, SC. Commentary from Kevin Kelly and Jim Cornette. The budget didn’t stretch to flying Nigel in for b-show announce duty and Glory By Honor 10 weekend was Dave Prazak’s last in the booth to date.

SIDENOTE – The swish new production extends to having the SBG TV show graphics on the DVD’s which is absolutely excellent. I understood why HDNet’s graphics and animations never made their way to live event DVD releases, but it makes absolutely no sense that, when they’re the same company, the TV show would have a great set of graphics whilst the live shows still have the same, amateur-looking fonts that have been around since 2009 when ROH rushed into pushing out it’s own DVD’s

Mike Bennett vs Adam Cole
These guys have fought a number of times and it’s always been The Prodigy escaping victorious. Bennett will need to keep that streak alive as he’s running out of time if he wants to make good on his promise to become a champion in ROH by the end of 2012.

No handshake from Bennett, and it doesn’t take him long to slap Cole in the face as well. Adam retaliates with a punch that knocks The Prodigy out of the ring…then slaps him as he covers up looking to block Cole’s signature tope suicida. But taking the fight to the outside comes back to haunt him as Bennett scoops him up for a SPINEBUSTER INTO THE SIDE OF THE RING! That turns this match on it’s head quickly – and Mike capitalises by going after Cole’s now-injured back. Impressively, Adam absorbs a lot of punishment before hitting back by rebounding over Bennett’s head into a lungblower. Bennett tries shoving him on his back again but this time Adam gets back to his feet and delivers a German suplex for 2. Flying Crossbody nailed too…but it’s only 2 again! Prodigy gets a nearfall in return with the TKO. Box Office Smash countered to an Ace Crusher! Cole hits a buzzsaw kick for another 2. Panama Sunrise blocked and Bennett scoops him out of the corner into a high angle backbreaker. Box Office Smash nailed this time…and The Prodigy wins at 09:31

Rating – *** – You could say this was actually their best match together. Certainly it was the most action packed and exciting. Bennett is really good at what he does (even if he has a lot of detractors), and Adam Cole is genuinely one of the hottest prospects in wrestling anywhere so they always tend to have good matches together. Even in house show mode these guys oozed workrate and quality.

The Bravados have been told that they need to win more matches if they want to keep their spot in ROH. They are going to secure their jobs tonight by winning their match AND the Honor Rumble…

Bravado Brothers vs Los Ben Dejos
No idea who the enhancement talent is. Thankfully this new DVD production at least provides a picture of them in a pre-match graphic. The Bravados have been told they will be dropped if they don’t start winning more matches…and as such a loss here could get them fired.

LBD both have horrifying haircuts. Apparently they impressed at an ROH training camp to earn this spot. They use their speed to get the early advantage, with Rios getting 2 from an Asai moonsault. That momentum is cut short when Harlem attacks Cruz from behind and the Bravados duly start to assert their dominance. Several minutes of slightly tedious face in peril spots follow before the inevitable hot tag is made to Rios. Camel Clutch/kick combo from Los Ben Dejos gets 2! Gentleman’s Approach from the Bravados gets then a nearfall too. Lancelot gets the win in 05:36 with a bridging roll-up on Cruz whilst brother Harlem provides some unseen additional leverage.

Rating – * – LBD didn’t look awful at all. Certainly rough around the edges but there was some potential there too. They were somewhat exposed by how long this match went though. Three minutes was more than long enough for these four men to get in, do their business and leave.

Jay Lethal vs TJ Perkins
Proving Gound rules for this one, meaning if TJP can go to a time limit draw or beat Jay Lethal then he earns himself a TV Title shot within 90 days. As ever with these Proving Ground encounters, the challenger has everything to gain and pretty much nothing to lose. Given that Lethal already has El Generico and Mike Bennett hot on his heels, and already has to give Roderick Strong a title shot after a Proving Ground time limit draw at Glory By Honor 10, the last thing he needs is another guy in the hunt for his championship.

These two are remarkably similar in terms of being extremely young veterans. The start is slow with an extended knucklelock battle before the pace just explodes…and Lethal strikes with a tilta-whirl backbreaker for 2! It’s clear that Lethal has the edge in power and heavy hitting, but TJ’s technical wizardry makes him a threat whenever Jay tries to slow the pace and work some submission holds. He tries that crucifix stretch only for Perkins to counter to a pendulum hold. That’s the window of opportunity TJP has been waiting for and he follows up quickly with a basement dropkick. More submission work from Perkins comes next, interspersed with periods of lightning quick strike attacks. Lethal tries to trade superkicks with his opponent…but gets his skull rattled and is then dropped straight south onto it again as TJ lands a brainbuster. Both guys are growing weary, and look out on their feet as they unsuccessfully battle for the chance to land a dive to the outside. Perkins settles for landing a sit-out powerbomb on the TV Champion. Jay pops up and hits Lethal Injection #1…for 2! He climbs the ropes but eats a boot to the face as he launches himself into the Macho Elbow. LETHAL INJECTION #3 INSTEAD! Lethal defeats TJ at 11:33

Rating – *** – It’s easy to see why officials decided to put this match on the TV show. It didn’t go long but it packed so much action and entertainment into that brief time allocation. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of story-telling going on. They got to work early on fleshing out the story of Lethal being bigger and stronger, but totally incapable of matching up to the bewitching submission combos of his opponent. In the end it was his ability to do more damage with big moves that saw him score the victory and deny Perkins a TV Title shot any time soon. Well worth finding the episode on ROHwrestling.com and checking out…

In the back Lethal has strong words for Adam Cole – who steps into the Proving Ground with him tomorrow night in Greensboro

Young Bucks vs All Night Express
This should be an interesting battle between two of ROH’s top young teams. You could argue that both duos have ‘future ROH Tag Champions’ written all over them, and in many ways this one will go a long way to determining who moves up the card and gets the opportunity to face the champs first.

Rhett’s knee was reportedly in pretty bad shape by this point and, judging from the way he limps through ANX’s ring entrance things don’t look good for him. The Bucks do their douchy ‘we only shake hands with each other’ routine to piss ANX off, and are soon being chased around the ring getting their asses kicked. CORKSCREW PESCADO BY KING! He hits a springboard elbow drop for 2 moments later. The All Nights look to isolate Matt now…but Rhett’s knee is so bad he can barely coordinate himself to hit a basic punch. Nick capitalises by sweeping his legs from under him and smashing the injured knee into the apron repeatedly. Within seconds the Young Bucks are dominant, trapping Titus in the ring for an extended assault on his already-injured knee. They even hit a sweet back flip/dropkick combo to knock Kenny off the apron too! Nick hits a double stomp to Rhett’s midsection as Matt hangs him in the ropes for 2. But the Jacksons go for one aerial move too many and Titus succeeds in crotching Matt over the turnbuckles. King gets the hot tag and smashes Nick straight out of the ring with the Shotgun Knees. Rhett can barely stand up though, and can’t help his partner as he eats the backflip cutter from Matt. More Bang For Your Buck blocked though. Sensibly Nick and Matt try to double team Rhett some more…only for King to catch Nick in the Royal Flush for 2! STANDING ENZI on Nick as he tries to climb to the top rope! MATT KICKS RHETT’S KNEE AS THEY ATTEMPT THE DOOMSDAY BLOCKBUSTER! MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK! It’s a win for the Young Bucks in 13:42

Rating – *** – Rhett’s knee injury was obviously a real issue here and it undoubtedly hurt one of the matches which, looking at the card, ROH were really hoping would be a selling point for the whole show. Given what they had to work with (seriously, Titus was limping badly before the match even began) I think these guys actually did a hell of a job putting a match together. King in particular had to bump like crazy, taking all the hits for his partner in the big action sequences.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander
Last week on the Sinclair TV show these two were set to have a match, but it was interrupted when Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team interjected themselves to continue their feud with the Briscoes. Jay and Mark are trying to beat C&C in less time than the 13+ minutes it took WGTT to beat them when they stepped into the Proving Ground a few weeks ago on TV. Presumably that challenge still stands as the Briscoes will want to make a statement and build plenty of momentum going into Final Battle.

In a hilarious pre-match promo the Briscoes imply Grizzly Redwood is dead, Bushwhacker Luke is a ‘good friend of the family’, Papa Briscoe is the best chicken farmer in Delaware and call Coleman and Alexander ‘dark meat’ which just can’t be PC. C&C have clearly celebrated earning ROH roster spots by investing in matching trunks. Jay takes Caprice up the aisle to deliver a suplex on the ramp, then grabs Cedric and holds him open to a wild strike from Mark. Coleman is left motionless after a high-octane trip through the guardrails and, three minutes into the match, his partner is left alone on the wrong end of a 2-on-1 assault from the Briscoes. After five plus minutes of abuse from ‘Jack Daniels Violence’, Cedric hits a back drop driver on Mark then lunges into the hot tag to a rejuvenated Caprice. He comes in and hits a DOUBLE standing dropkick by himself! SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! 619 around the ringpost into a dropkick next…and Alexander rounds it off with a somersault plancha too! Coleman hits the standing frankensteiner for 2. Mark drops him with the Cut-Throat Driver (totally missed by Cornette and Kelly) but walks into a corkscrew enzi from Alexander. Doomsday Device on him…and the Briscoes get the win at 09:44 – faster than WGTT

Rating – ** – The live crowd seemed to like it which is important, but for me this was much too long for a squash (and make no mistake, C&C were flattened like pancakes here). There were some cool spots down the stretch and a nice brawl at the start, but the heat segment on Alexander was completely mediocre and really dragged the whole match down in my opinion.

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Roderick Strong/Michael Elgin
Proving Ground rules again here, meaning the House Of Truth can win a Tag Title opportunity with a good performance here. The Proving Ground system has already benefited Roderick Strong in recent months as he went to a time limit draw with Jay Lethal to earn himself a future TV Title shot. But this HOT duo haven’t won many matches, and come up against WGTT who have been beating teams up and down the roster all year.

Benjamin starts with his ribs still bandaged – a massive mistake when Roderick Strong stands across the ring from him. Roddy attacks them right away to put HOT on the front foot. Shelton foolishly responds by landing the Stinger Splash and hurts himself so much he has to tag out. Haas dropkicks Elgin with such force that he tumbles out of the ring! Unbreakable wisely goes after Benjamin instead, hoisting him up for a big powerslam which drops him south onto the damaged ribcage. Shelton certainly isn’t a small guy, so the ease with which Elgin gets him up for a stalling vertical suplex is pretty scary. House Of Truth are isolating Benjamin (with the illegal assistance of Martini to boot), doing a real number on the injured ribs. Strong gets a close nearfall with Death By Roderick and adds insult to injury by applying the Stronghold whilst facing Benjamin’s partner as he stands in the corner. Finally the Gibson Driver is countered and that allows Shelton to get the hot tag to Haas. Strong and Elgin eat multiple suplexes…but Michael is too big to get up for the Olympic Slam, so Charlie enlists the help of Benjamin with a superkick. HOT retaliate with a lungblower/Oklahoma Stampede combo for 2. Buckle Bomb/Sick Kick next, pulling Shelton back in to save his partner. He drops Elgin with a DDT then levels Roddy with the Dragon Whip too. Leap Of Faith on Strong! Truth Martini is crotched as he tries to interfere…and Elgin runs through Benjamin with a Bossman Slam. ROPE RUN GERMAN SUPERPLEX FROM BENJAMIN TO ELGIN! WGTT take the win in 15:58

Rating – *** – Nothing outstanding or overly remarkable, but this was MOTN thus far in that it told a decent story, stuck with it, enabled all four performers opportunities to shine and kept the live crowd into it for the duration. Haas and Benjamin get a lot of stick (sometimes rightly) but I thought they looked good this evening. I really don’t think they needed to be going over the Survival Of The Fittest winner clean as that really damages Elgin, but everything else was good, honest house show fun.

El Generico vs Eddie Edwards
There’s not a great deal of storyline surrounding this one (although Wolves/Steen-erico was a huge feud in 2009) but this battle of top ROH talents should be decent and, on paper, was easily the stand-out match on this card. It pits the last guy Davey beat in defence of his World Title (Generico) against his next challenger (Edwards at Final Battle) so will certainly have ramifications on the ROH Title picture as we move into 2012.

The start is pretty low key which gives Cornette and Kelly plenty of opportunity to push the Edwards/Severn stuff hard. Much of it is Eddie trying to wear the luchador down with submission holds with Generico periodically breaking out and landing a few fast-paced offensive flurries. Much of it is solid stuff but very obviously just killing time without doing anything too substantial. Things get more interesting as Generico displays some actual intensity, refusing to give Eddie a clean break and hammering him with chops and mounted punches in the corner. It’s that aggression which gives him the edge at the five minute mark. He makes a critical error though, missing a split-legged moonsault and eating a basement dropkick from the former World Champion. A few fearsome chops later and Die Hard is in total control and able to apply various stretches on the mat without worrying about Generico trying to quicken the pace. The masked man switches tactic and tricks him into falling out of the ring – into prime position for him to hit the somersault plancha. Flying crossbody comes next for 2, and it’s the high flying stuff that has given Generico half a chance here. He lines up the Yakuza Kick only for Eddie to block and retaliate with the Climbing Wizard for 2. Backpack Stunner nailed…then converted to the STF! But he can’t get the submission as a resilient El Generico refuses to give up and gets back to his feet to start dishing out chops and kicks. HALF NELSON SUPLEX! NO SOLD! SUPERKICK! Both guys collapse into opposite corners…with Generico coming out first with the Yakuza Kick! Brainbuster…but Eddie counters with a suplex and BOTH MEN FALL TO THE FLOOR! They barely beat the count, and Generico DROPS EDDIE ON HIS HEAD with a Michinoku Driver for 2! BACK DROP DRIVER BY EDDIE! They fight on the second rope, with Eddie landing an avalance Doi 555 from there! BACK FIST FOR 2! Generico is on the run and Eddie catches him to lock in the Achilles Lock! No place to go for the Generic Luchador – he taps at 18:02

Rating – *** – Unless the Honor Rumble turns out way better than expected, I’m guessing this is the match everyone in Spartanburg went home talking about. And it was a hell of a battle which was obviously a lot of fun to watch. I don’t think it ever did enough to break into 4* territory. The first half of the match was very slow, with both guys playing it safe and working well within themselves. That’s fine if they were going somewhere with the match, but in all honesty all they seemed to be doing was stalling for time before throwing in the head drops, no selling and heavy strikes. It’s not that this wasn’t entertaining, it’s that it’s one of those matches where you have to throw out that old caveat of ‘it was good – for a house show match’. They could have a much better match with something meaningful at stake.

Honor Rumble
If you’ve never seen an Honor Rumble before, it’s simply ROH’s rebranding of WWE’s Royal Rumble concept. It’ll take something special to blow your mind or get you out of your seat, but watching the ROH wrestlers take on this match format has always been entertaining in the past. The first one saw Ruckus emerge as the surprising winner at New Horizons back in 2008, whilst the second took place on HDNet and saw the Briscoes win the ‘Tag Team Honor Rumble’. The winner receives a guaranteed ROH World Title shot so there’s everything to play for tonight.

TJ Perkins and Matt Jackson are the unlucky first entrants into the contest. Matt is still cocky from earlier and throws a few disrespectful slaps and eye gauges in TJP’s direction. Kenny King comes in third and makes a beeline straight for Matt, but can’t seem to eliminate him despite multiple attempts. Harlem Bravado is #4, and he hasn’t even officially entered the match before he’s trying to drag King off the apron for an elimination. Cedric Alexander limps down the aisle as the fifth participant and is already looking worse for wear. Matt Jackson isn’t looking much better as he and TJP continue going at it. Amusingly, Harlem is avoiding all physical contact unless it’s taking a cheapshot or blindsiding an opponent. Jay Briscoe is #6 and eliminates King, Alexander, Harlem and Matt in mere seconds. TJP soon follows leaving Jay alone in the ring and awaiting his next opponent – Caprice Coleman. These guys have heat from earlier, and just like earlier, Jay basically squashes Caprice by eliminating him inside 40 seconds.

Charlie Haas is #8 so now we’ve got a Final Battle preview with these two trading fists. Lancelot Bravado soon follows, drawing a few laughs as he tries to pick a fight with both Haas and Briscoe, before being tossed out to allow the WGTT/Briscoe brawl to continue. It’s time for entrant 10 and, unfortunately for Charlie, it’s Mark Briscoe. Grizzly Redwood enters at #11 only to be dropped on his head with a German suplex from Jay. Adam Cole is at 12, and he comes in full of fire as he desperately looks to earn a World Title shot…but the combined force of the Briscoe Brothers continues their dominance of the contest. At last Shelton Benjamin arrives, hurling Cole out of the match before joining his partner in an all out war with the Briscoes. THEY ELIMINATE EACH OTHER! Grizzly is the only guy still in the match as the four feuding guys brawl all around the building. Just as Redwood starts to celebrate Michael Elgin stomps through the curtain at #14. Unbreakable effortlessly tosses Grizz around until an exhausted El Generico enters the fray. He can barely walk after his battle with Edwards and Michael has no problem battering him down alongside the Littlest Lumberjack.

Jay Lethal is #16, knocking Elgin back with a Stinger Splash. They all try to team up in eliminating Elgin but just can’t do it! Nick Jackson arrives, wearing the same cocky smile that Matt sported earlier. Mike Bennett is #18, going straight into battle with Jay Lethal. Rhett Titus is in the ring too which is either a major error or there’s been some clipping somewhere. Roderick Strong is soon here as #20 to complete the field too. Elgin eliminates Redwood, then Titus gets some retribution for earlier by eliminating Nick Jackson. Unbreakable kicks Rhett off the apron to get rid of him too. Generico eliminates Bennett with the Yakuza Kick so it’s a final four of Generico, Strong, Lethal and Elgin. The House Of Truth team look set to dominate…until Strong eliminates both Generico AND ELGIN! Michael Elgin is furious but Roddy can’t stop to think about that as he flies at the TV Champion with one more elimination standing between him and a World Title shot. Lethal Injection #3 nailed! Both guys fight on the apron, perilously close to both victory and defeat! Eventually Lethal hits a superkick and wins the match in pretty low key fashion at 24:27

Rating – * – Others may get more out of this than I did – but for my taste this was really mediocre. There were a few bright moments (the Briscoe dominance, leading to the Briscoe/WGTT segment and the intrigue of Strong pulling rank and eliminating Elgin) but most of this was 25 minutes of generic, ponderous brawling and recycled ‘rumble spots’ from a bunch of guys who didn’t look too thrilled about pulling double duty and didn’t want to injure themselves. I don’t know what was going on with Rhett Titus’s entrance either but it looked totally lousy. For a live audience this might have been ok, but on DVD it was really terrible. Jay Lethal was one of the few logical winners so I don’t have a problem with that. Whilst there are feuds going on with ANX/Young Bucks and Briscoes/WGTT they don’t need the shot. Elgin already has one after winning Survival Of The Fittest, it’s too soon for Roderick to be in title contention again since he’s already lost to Davey – and the same goes for Generico. You’re only really left with TJP, the Bravados, Grizzly and Adam Cole along with Lethal…and at least now we have the added edge of a World vs TV Champion bout to look forward to.

Tape Rating – ** – You can see why these shows were bundled together. This wasn’t a bad night of wrestling by any means, but nothing was particularly outstanding and there’s nothing on here which would sell a DVD by itself. Lots of fun, TV-length bouts (taped for the TV show), and a predictable, plodding main event don’t make for a scintillating ROH event when you’ve sat through 292 shows (plus 100 episodes of the HDNet venture) previously so I found this pretty tough going. Edwards/Generico was the highlight of a low key evening, although Bennett/Cole, Lethal/Perkins, Bucks/ANX and WGTT/HOT were all fun for what they were. Everything about this Battle In The Carolinas set is geared around the record breaking main event of tomorrow evening’s show anyway, so as a ‘bonus show’ in all but name, this was fine. You get what you pay for and all that…

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs TJ Perkins (***)
2) Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Roderick Strong/Michael Elgin (***)
1) Eddie Edwards vs El Generico (***)