ROH Summer Heat Tour: Aftershock 7/12/2014

ROH 356 – Summer Heat Tour: Aftershock – 12th July 2014

If I haven’t already said it a hundred times, I absolutely hate the new lightweight, cardboard casings that ROH now packages their DVD’s in. This one, like several others since they made the switch, arrived with the DVD case pretty much wrecked. The card for this one isn’t wildly exciting either since all the part time guys (Bad Influence, Young Bucks, AJ Styles etc) aren’t booked and the core Ring Of Honor roster simply isn’t very good anymore. The advertised main event is a 6-man war pitting The Kingdom of Adam Cole, Michael Bennett and Matt Hardy against new World Champion Michael Elgin and his allies, War Machine. Kevin Steen wrestles his first of three special farewell matches, the Briscoes face The Decade too, but arguably the only outstanding match on the undercard pits Kyle O’Reilly against Cedric Alexander. This was taped in Hopkins, MN. Kevin Kelly and Larry Mercer aren’t at ringside but do provide post-production commentary.

This show has been done on the smallest budget ever (excluding Matt Hardy’s payday obviously). ROH haven’t brought their lighting rig, ring or entrance ramp. The entire commentary team has been left at home, as has Bobby Cruise and Scarlett Bordeaux. It means this event is very obviously taking place in a sports hall. The crowd looks pretty healthy at least. Some guy named ‘Corky Franks’ brings out Michael Elgin for his first interview as Ring Of Honor World Champion. Elgin says he wants to defend his World Title tonight…but is interrupted by Adam Cole and The Kingdom – who call him boring (they have a point). War Machine march out too…meaning our scheduled main event is now the first match!

Michael Elgin/War Machine vs Adam Cole/Michael Bennett/Matt Hardy
We are hot on the heels of Elgin dethroning Cole to become World Champion at Best In The World. During that match we saw Bennett and Hardy interfere – only to be chased off by Rowe and Hanson. Match Maker Nigel McGuinness decided to book this match as a result.

There are brawls all over ringside, with Elgin completely splattering Cole into the guardrails. Hardy, still with the ICONIC Title around his waist, tries to help his buddy…so gets the same treatment! The three babyfaces play punch tennis with Adam’s face too before order is finally restored. Bennett gets a similar pasting…prompting The Kingdom to go with a divide and conquer approach. Having taken Rowe’s partners out on the floor, Cole and Bennett take turns kicking lumps out of his skull to finally give their team the advantage. Hardy, who has said in interviews that his back is f*cked because of all the leg drops he’s delivered over the years, instead hits a hilarious needless screaming FATTY SPLASH on Ray for 2! Hanson gets a tag to steamroll all three opponents. BRONCO BUSTER ON COLE, followed by the cartwheel lariat on Bennett. Maria’s fiancé then gets crushed by the War Machine powerbomb senton combo. He counters Elgin’s Buckle Bomb…only to be back dropped over the top onto everyone else fighting on the floor. Elgin chases him out with a somersault plancha! Jay Briscoe runs in trying to get the ICONIC Title back from Matt Hardy…and when Cole dropkicks Briscoe into Elgin the ref decides to call for a DQ at 11:40. I guess Elgin and War Machine win?

Rating – *** – Heated opening match, where everyone got to work their spots and pop the crowd. The finish was pretty terrible, but given the angle they’d chosen to run later in the evening it makes sense. Considering the long-term plan to do an Elgin/Briscoe World Title Match it’s also pretty logical to keep Jay involved in the main event scene. I’m still disappointed they decided to ditch this as the main event though. I like War Machine and was looking forward to seeing them go in a more substantial and significant match.

Mark Briscoe is out as well, whilst Hardy and Maria sneak away. It means the remaining Kingdom members are at a 4-on-2 disadvantage. JAY DRILLER ON COLE! FLYING LEG DROP/BACK DROP DRIVER COMBO on Bennett by War Machine. The Briscoes and War Machine have a match scheduled for Cincinnati so they don’t see eye to eye…as Elgin offers Matt Hardy a World Title shot later tonight.

THE FISH TANK LIVE – Fish and O’Reilly are in danger of turning themselves babyface with this Fish Tank stuff. They’ve booked Cheeseburger to join them as he was the guest on their first ever Fish Tank guest. They want to know his winning percentage in ROH…so he teases them about how many times they’ve lost the Tag Titles. It leads to a challenge, with Fish offering to put up his half of the Tag Team Championship – meaning if Cheeseburger wins it will be he and O’Reilly holding the belts.

Bobby Fish vs Cheeseburger – ROH Tag Title Match
reDRagon bullied Cheese last time he appeared on the Fish Tank. He’s clearly not forgotten that, and had no problems accepting Bobby’s request for a singles match after mouthing off at them here tonight. Can he improve the poor winning percentage that Fish enjoyed making fun of?

Fish looks absolutely enormous compared to Cheeseburger. He shows that size advantage by easily riding him on the canvas. He even offers the little chap a headlock, before effortlessly dispatching him to the mat once more. SHOTEI nailed by Burger! Sadly he’s not Jushin Liger and he gets smashed into the buckles again seconds later. Running elbow wins it for Fish at 05:06

Rating – * – It was sort of funny, but outstayed it’s welcome very quickly. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I have no interest in seeing Cheeseburger in ROH. The joke has already worn tediously thin with him, and it’s painfully clear he only gets booked because he pays his fees to the wrestling school, helps set up the ring and is much cheaper to book than comedy wrestlers who can also go in the ring.

reDRagon try to give Cheeseburger Chasing The Dragon as well…only for Cedric Alexander to interrupt and help the kid out.

Kyle O’Reilly vs Cedric Alexander
Although these two haven’t met for a while there is certainly plenty of history between them. Kyle is part of the reDRagon team who defeated the C&C WrestleFactory in their last ever match together back at Pursuit Night 2. After his memorable victory over Roderick Strong at Best In The World, Alexander badly needs to build momentum and win more high profile matches if he is to start climbing the ranks in ROH.

Alexander starts at a blistering pace and quickly wipes out both members of reDRagon with a somersault plancha. O’Reilly is a resilient character though, and absorbs plenty of offence from Cedric early on simply to shake it off and fire back with a flurry of martial arts strikes. They take turns slapping the taste out of each other’s mouths before the pace quickens – which once again favours Ced. Kyle has to hide behind the ref as he lines up the springboard lariat…and by doing so he distracts him allowing Fish to kick Alexander’s legs from under him. Kyle savagely attacks the back and ribs with some brutal grounded elbows and knees, then punishes those body parts further with a cross-legged abdominal stretch. Immediately the fiery babyface has been slowed which allows Kyle to use his favourite tactic – working the arm. The Arm-ageddon is escaped quickly but after a number of shoulder breakers and divorce courts Ced’s arm has become a major issue. FLYING KNEE DROP to the arm and ribs gets 2. Cedric tries a springboard lariat…but slips on the ropes and collapses to the ground! The crowd gives it the ‘you f*cked up’ treatment, but it’s also the kind of botch which really helps convey how brutal O’Reilly’s assault has been. Eventually Alexander hits a wheelbarrow gourdbuster, but his arm still hangs limp by his side so Kyle leaps into a GUILLOTINE CHOKE! COUNTERED INTO KICK 2 KILL! Lumbar Check blocked into more kicks to the ribs…then a knee to the jaw! German suplex rolled straight into Axe & Smash gets 2! Guillotine choke again…with Alexander countering this time with elbow strikes! ARM-AGEDDON! Alexander counters to a half crab! Strikes by O’Reilly! CORKSCREW ENZI from Cedric for 2! He sets up the IED, and when Fish throws a title belt in to stop that he nails the LUMBAR CHECK INSTEAD! Cedric wins at 14:43

Rating – **** – A match which brought together two of ROH’s most consistent workers of 2014 which unsurprisingly brought tremendously exciting results. You could make the usual criticisms of Alexander that his selling wasn’t the best, but he still makes such a sympathetic babyface when his opponents are beating the sh*t out of him – and you could argue you can’t sell something better than botching one of your signature spots due to injury. Kyle is arguably the best and most complete worker in Ring Of Honor at this point in time. His promos and character work have become excellent, and his in-ring work is on another level now. Of all the guys on the roster at present, he has the most potential to become a Bryan Danielson/Davey Richards-style workhorse for the company. He carried the bulk of this one, and it was streets ahead of anything else on the show thus far.

Roderick Strong/BJ Whitmer vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
The rivalry between The Decade and the Briscoes (mostly Mark) has been pretty well documented. Mark has been a thorn in Decade’s side because he doesn’t agree with their treatment of young talent in the ROH locker room. Since he and Jay have been in ROH longer than anyone in The Decade, the fact that they don’t agree with their methods is a pretty big slap in the face to Strong, Whitmer and Jacobs. The result is this tag clash between four ROH veterans.

Roderick and Jay start, renewing a rivalry which goes back years, though Strong actually served as a distraction to allow Whitmer to jump his former friend from behind. Mark saves with some early Redneck Kung Fu and pretty soon the Briscoes are on top, working over BJ. Much of their isolation is based around repeated shots to the head – apparently trying to beat him senseless. In the end Strong comes to his partner’s aid by kicking Mark in the neck as he lines up the Cactus Elbow. Soon The Decade have the younger Briscoe at their mercy. Strong is particularly stiff and brutal with his striking and takedowns, which actually make this heat segment a lot more interesting than it otherwise might be. Jay is tagged but since Mark is so beaten up Decade use their numbers to get the better of him. Death By Roderick blocked into a SNAP DVD for 2! Too soon for the Jay Driller though…so he and Roddy simply strike to the death! Death By Roderick/Sick Kick combo gets 2 before Mark makes the save! End Of Heartache…COUNTERED TO THE JAY DRILLER! Briscoes win at 12:54

Rating – *** – Hardly the most exciting match you’ll ever see but all four guys are so experienced they can sleepwalk their way to a half decent contest. The exchanges between Jay and Roderick were a significant step up in quality from anything else…but I really don’t like The Decade as much without Jimmy Jacobs. Roddy is an outstanding performer and Whitmer can hold his own – but it’s Jimmy’s charisma and character work that really carries The Decade. Without him they are far more bland.

BJ Whitmer seems to blame Tadarius Thomas (their young boy at ringside) for the loss…but as the Briscoes try to help TD out he attacks them.

Jay Lethal vs Takaaki Watanabe
Whether it was ROH’s, NJPW’s or Watanabe’s decision, I absolutely HATE it when wrestlers with foreign names drop their first name. This is a Proving Ground match meaning he can earn a TV Title shot by defeating Lethal or making it to a time limit draw. The last time Jay was in a Proving Ground environment he actually lost to Romantic Touch (with Matt Taven under the mask) – so this may be a good time to face him.

First blood goes to Lethal, who lands a couple of cheap shots in the corner when he should be giving his opponent a clean break. The entire early story of the match is Jay being cocky against someone less experienced…until Watanabe eventually catches him and muscles him up for a face-first German suplex. Just when it seems like the NJPW wrestler’s power is becoming too much for the champ he shows his ring savvy by drop toehold-ing him into a nearby chair. Truth Martini calling Watanabe ‘wannabe’ makes me chuckle heartily as Jay straps him in for a camel clutch in the ropes. Half crab applied next, after a series of body slams, so presumably Jay is targeting the lower back to negate the power advantage. Hail To The King misses almost entirely because he took so long posing to the crowd whilst climbing the ropes. Takaaki scores with a running STO and a neckbreaker for 2 – without remotely selling the back. Pretty soon his spine is being punished again with a Lethal Combo, followed by the Macho Elbow for 2! CRADLE back drop driver by Watanabe…only for Lethal to superkick his stomach as he jumps off the top rope. SKIN THE CAT LETHAL INJECTION! Jay wins at 12:10

Rating – ** – Another almost completely unexciting match (although the finish was awesome). Lethal’s performance was half decent and he definitely got the crowd routing for the Japanese athlete, but I felt Watanabe himself wasn’t particularly great. He has some solid power moves, but seemed completely incapable of selling Lethal’s offence and lacks any sort of charisma. It made the match come off as very fake.

Romantic Touch’s music hits as soon as the match ends. He has a TV Title shot in his back pocket after the events of Road To BITW Night 2…but as Lethal attacks him thinking it’s Taven – Matt Taven himself runs in through the crowd to give him the Climax.

Tommaso Ciampa vs Kevin Steen
After Best In The World, Steen took to the internet to announce that he was leaving Ring Of Honor. The Summer Heat Tour would also become his farewell tour, with ROH allowing him to choose his own opponents for his final three dates. He picked a grudge match against Silas Young as he still has a score to settle with him, and he wanted his last match to be against his friend Steve Corino. That left one date free – and he asked to face Tommaso. Apparently he’s a fan of Ciampa’s work, and was disappointed that they’d not had a chance to work a meaningful singles match together until now. As Ciampa is currently out of the title picture (after losing a World Title match at Road To BITW) he could do with a big win against the departing ace of ROH.

Steen is, quite deservedly, buried in streamers during his entrance. He is in a jovial mood as the match starts and happily cracks jokes with the crowd, Ciampa and even Todd Sinclair. My favourite of which is Ciampa getting fed up with his persistent rope breaks…so refusing to put him in anymore wristlocks. Tommaso ups the ante by bating him into in a big strike exchange, but gets knocked back in that too and leaves the ring entirely frustrated. He has had enough of Steen’s wisecracks so full-on DRAGS him through the ropes for a brawl on the outside. A Bare Knee strike against the guardrails puts him firmly in the ascendancy…and he has no respect for the fans either as he tears a ‘Thanks Steen’ Canadian flag from one of them to choke him with. The Psychopath is relentlessly brutal as he peppers Steen with strikes whilst at the same time starting to wear down his left arm. Mr Wrestling strikes back with a missile dropkick but comes up clutching his bad arm so its clear some serious damage has been done. Pretty soon Ciampa has him decked again with a lariat…and briefly has the arm cranked again in the Sicilian Stretch. HANGING DDT with the good arm! PROJECT CIAMPA NAILED! But Steen’s weight crashing down on Tommaso’s suspect knee causes Ciampa to drop to the mat! He immediately starts limping heavily…but aggressively defends himself by blocking the Sharpshooter and repeatedly driving the bad shoulder of his opponent into the ringpost. Cannonball by Steen! STEEN-TON BOMB! Now Ciampa is worn down enough for him to apply the Sharpshooter! Unfortunately for him he needs the bad shoulder to apply the hold…meaning Ciampa once again is able to escape, then counter him to the SICILIAN STRETCH! Kevin drags himself out of the ring…FOR THE APRON BOMB! F-5 countered with a knee strike for 2! SLEEPER SUPLEX! But the shoulder gives out before Steen can hit the Package Piledriver! BARE KNEE STRIKES! Now Tommaso’s knee gives out! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER NAILED! Steen wins at 21:38

Rating – **** – At the start it felt like I was watching a Colt Cabana match, but by the end they’d nicely developed this into something rather intense and engaging. Neither man was particularly consistent with how they sold their injury, but considering this was a farewell match and Steen could have spent the whole match in exhibition mode, the way they built it into a hard-hitting war was quite the spectacle. Ciampa has been having a solid year, and has really produced the goods over the last few shows when put in a main event position (vs Steen tonight and vs Cole in Collinsville). He is definitely one of the guys who can step up and replace Steen in ROH’s main event scene.

Steen uses his promo time to praise the Hopkins crowd (who have been awesome tonight), and tells them the crowds in New York, Chicago and Toronto could learn from them. He has a point…

Jimmy Jacobs makes his way through the curtain next. He’s supposed to be participating in the upcoming #1 contendership match for the World Title…but is in his street clothes. He praises Tadarius Thomas for attacking the Briscoes earlier – and is rewarding him by letting TD have his spot

Tadarius Thomas vs ACH vs Silas Young vs Matt Taven
The winner of this one gets a World Title shot at the next Milwaukee show, and there’s a real mash-up of issues between these four too. Silas and ACH had a really competitive match at Night 2 of Road To BITW. ACH and Tadarius are former tag partners – with ACH having pinned Thomas at Best In The World to earn a TV Title shot already. Taven unsuccessfully challenged for the World Title at the last Milwaukee show so would love a rematch. He also beat the likes of TD and ACH during his lengthy TV Title reign, so knows he has the talent to win here. This is apparently contested under Scramble rules.

Jacobs instructs Thomas not to shake hands, even with his former tag partner. The former Adrenaline RUSH members start together…with TD simply slapping ACH in the face then walking out. Taven lands a springboard corkscrew senton…then sprints at Young on the floor with a tope suicida! ACH thinks about Air Jordan…but is distracted by Jacobs throwing a water bottle at him. MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR BY TAVEN! Meanwhile Thomas crotches ACH on the ropes, allowing Young to hit a springboard McLariat for 2. Both heels take turns working the luckless ACH over now and he quickly starts to tire, having spent the entire match as one of the legal men to that point. Taven finally tags him out and floors Tadarius with a rolling neckbreaker. KUNG FU MOVIE EXCHANGE between ACH and Thomas! RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! 450 Splash misses though, and Young swoops to hit the Killer Combo for the win at 09:38

Rating – ** – There were some exciting moments (mostly between ACH and Tadarius Thomas) but a lot of this felt way too predictable. Doing another Elgin/Silas match in Milwaukee was the best possible outcome though, so kudos to Delirious for booking that.

Jacobs angrily admonishes Tadarius for wasting his opportunity.

Michael Elgin vs Matt Hardy – ROH World Title Match
As we saw earlier in the show, Hardy escaped when the Briscoes, Elgin and War Machine were putting a beating on The Kingdom. Elgin was determined to defend the World Championship here on his first show as ROH Champion – so offered the Sensei Of Mattitude a shot. Will the ICONIC Champion leave Hopkins with two belts around his waist or can Unbreakable finally beat Hardy out of Ring Of Honor for good. Maria Kanellis is the only Kingdom member who accompanies Matt to the ring.

Hardy presents Maria with the ICONIC Title before the match since he’ll be World Champion soon. Elgin nearly traps him in the Crossface in the first five seconds of the match as he seems completely unable to cope with the champ’s power and wrestling acumen. Hardy continually tries to run away from Elgin – a tactic which Michael eventually becomes sick of so pursues him outside to give him a number of violent trips to the guardrails. SIDE EFFECT ON THE APRON! And since Matt only has three moves he quickly follows it with another few Side Effects inside the ring. ‘I love that move’ – Maria. Eventually Elgin grows tired of it, and counters into a Side Effect of his own. Hardy’s gut sags over his pants as he snaps Unbreakable to the ground again with a neckbreaker. He starts pummelling Elgin’s neck with elbows – so at least all his offence is targeting the same body part. Next he clings to a sleeper hold which rips on the neck whilst giving him a chance to catch his breath. Elgin decides not to bother selling the neck upon his escape and simply hoists his opponent into a bridging German suplex for 2. FATTY MOONSAULT by Hardy! Adam Cole and Michael Bennett sneak to ringside and take a few cheap shots before feeding Elgin back to Matt – who hits a Final Cut (a new move!). Twist Of Fate countered to the Crossface! Cole and Bennett both get onto the apron forcing him to break it though. Maria then lunges into the ring to save Hardy from the Buckle Bomb! War Machine finally make their way out to even things up somewhat…but they can’t stop Maria JUMPING onto Todd Sinclair to save the match again after Michael hits the Elgin Bomb. Cole, meanwhile, is laying War Machine out with the ICONIC Title. Twist Of Fate on Elgin…but Bennett knocked out Sinclair so there’s no ref to count the pin. The Briscoes are next in to this rather farcical scene…which annoys Elgin too! He and Jay have to be separated…then we have a huge brawl on the floor between the Briscoes, War Machine and the Cole/Bennett duo. Elgin taps Hardy out with the Crossface at 19:31

Rating – * – I know some people really enjoy Hardy’s ROH work, and I know a lot of the wrestlers really enjoy having him around. But I just don’t see the attraction. His matches (with the exception of the Best In The World 2014 tag) usually suck, and it’s incredibly sad watching this once great performer looking fat, old and out of shape whilst performing in front of a few hundred people in a dinky gymnasium. He may be an entertaining heel, but he can’t go in the ring at all, which automatically means he really can’t justify his asking price in a workrate company like Ring Of Honor. He should have been written out with that ladder/table bump at BITW. With that said, Elgin was no better than him in this match either. Hardy was pretty consistent in attacking the neck, but Elgin simply couldn’t be bothered to sell a thing. He took a few moves, but would then easily dust them all off and start hitting his usual spots on Matt as if nothing had happened. And all those issues were before the crazily overbooked finish. This is the ROH World Championship. At the moment every big World Title match has about three run-ins. I know ROH are still establishing The Kingdom as the top faction in the company…but this really has to stop.

Tape Rating – ** – A pretty weak show, which probably exposes just how bad the core ROH roster is when you strip away all the expensive part time acts. In truth this felt like a mediocre episode of Raw for the most part – with lengthy promo segments which didn’t accomplish much, comedy wrestlers like Cheeseburger getting way too much exposure and plenty of overbooked, crappy finishes. In particular the Hardy/Elgin World Title match was all over the place and no fun to watch at all. Thankfully Steen/Ciampa and O’Reilly/Alexander on the undercard mean this show isn’t a total bust. Tommaso, Kyle and Cedric have been in great form for Ring Of Honor this year and are really starting to step up into more prominent roles. If you really want to see those matches, this show is probably just about worth the $15 VOD charge, particularly since the opener is ok and the Briscoes/Decade tag is pretty solid. This show does feel long though, with plenty of sh*t to sit through between the good stuff.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Roderick Strong/BJ Whitmer (***)
2) Cedric Alexander vs Kyle O’Reilly (****)
1) Kevin Steen vs Tommaso Ciampa (****)

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