ROH The Battle Of Richmond 5/19/2012

ROH 305 – The Battle Of Richmond – 19th May 2012

We’re a week removed from Border Wars which turned out to be a real landmark event for Ring Of Honor in 2012. Rather than see the fallout on TV, the roster heads to a new market looking to make an impact. We have a new World Champion (who I believe is here, but not wrestling), a former champion looking to take his frustrations out on someone, new Tag Champions, a grudge main event which destroyed the ring, Tommaso Ciampa looking to rebound from defeat for the first time in his ROH career and more. A lot of the actual Border Wars fallout content was taped the previous evening in Baltimore, and won’t have aired yet – so it’s hard to judge quite how important or relevant this show will be. We’re in Richmond, VA with Kevin Kelly working solo commentary duty this evening.

No messing around, straight to the ring and here comes the new World Champion Kevin Steen. He suffered a concussion at the TV tapings so isn’t medically cleared to compete this evening. The crowd is brutally silent during his promo…and hardly react when Davey Richards and Kyle O’Reilly come out either. Davey looks like a bit of a fool squaring up to Steen for a fight in flip flops. Sound goes crazy on my DVD so Davey’s promo is out of sync and total nonsense – but it appears to be Davey vs Jimmy Jacobs tonight with Steen at ringside.

Mike Mondo vs Jay Lethal
This is a match between two guys very much on the rise in ROH. Mondo has been scoring some wins and putting in some drastically improved performances recently. I’ve absolutely hated him thus far in his ROH career, but the trios match at Border Wars and his TV match with Matt Taven were great performances…and it’s testament to his improvement that I’m not dreading this match. Lethal seems set for a push even further up the card after ending Tommaso Ciampa’s undefeated streak in Toronto.

Mondo engages Lethal in a hiptoss exchange, which is an obvious mistake as it gives Jay the chance to level him with the hiptoss/dropkick combo. It’s a largely cagey opening few minutes, and how you get an idea of how interesting it is by the fact that Kelly hasn’t even mentioned the match and is chatting happily to himself about Steen, Jacobs and Corino. Lethal finally snaps him out of it by landing a tope suicida. Handspring elbow scores for 2 as the match approaches the five minute mark…but Mondo blocks the Lethal Injection with tackle which takes the knees out from under the former TV Champion. In a flash he starts attacking the leg and enjoys a sustained period of offensive dominance for the first time in the contest. He works several minutes of stomps to the legs, mixed in with multiple leg submission holds but isn’t able to force Lethal to tap. Great selling by Lethal, modifying his offence to nail a tornado DDT for 2. Lethal Combination blocked as Mike attacks the legs again! Double Arm DDT countered by Jay into the Lethal Combination! Macho Elbow attempted, only for Mondo to crotch him by shoving the ref into the ropes. Mondo attempts a Superfly Splash but sails straight into Lethal’s knees. That hurt Jay, but he limps up for the MACHO ELBOW! Lethal wins at 12:35

Rating – *** – This is one that really benefited from getting a decent time allocation. It bored the hell out of me at first (Kevin Kelly’s disinterested solo narrative certainly wasn’t helping), but got better and better as it progressed. Mondo working the knee wasn’t exactly rocket science, but Lethal did a great job selling it and they really had the crowd hooked by the end. Decent opening contest…

The Bravado Brothers get some promo time and demand an opportunity at the Tag Titles. WGTT aren’t impressed with that…and somehow we have an impromptu Tag Title Match

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Bravado Brothers – ROH Tag Title Match
We saw the Bravados return to ROH at Unity, and delivered a markedly improved performance in a great little match with the Young Bucks. Their improved ring skills and their big mouths have earned them this shot – and since WGTT were already booked for other matches on the show tonight the element of surprise may just work in their favour.

Harlem quickly knocks Haas out of the ring and hits a flying knee strike from the apron. Huge lariat from Lancelot gets 2 before Shelton runs in to save his partner. Harlem drops Benjamin with a tornado DDT for good measure as the Bravados continue to dominate. Shelton angrily throws him into the guardrails as Haas shuts Lancelot down with a German suplex straight onto his neck. The champions isolate Lance Bravado, with Haas delivering that devastating back suplex over the guardrails in the process. Haas Of Pain applied only for Harlem to save his brother…so Benjamin gives him a suplex on the floor. Charlie flips out for no reason, shoves the ref over…and WGTT are disqualified at 05:36

Rating – DUD – I’ve no idea what ROH were really trying to achieve with this, but whatever it was – it didn’t work. It was a pointless match which seemed to serve no logical purpose, pissed the live crowd off, made WGTT look like idiots and made the Bravados look like total jabronis. Literally nobody won here. And who’s f*cking idea was it to book three Charlie Haas matches in one night?

The All Night Express run in to save the Bravados…and Rhett informs them that they still have to defend the belts against them as scheduled…

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs All Night Express – ROH Tag Title Match
This was WGTT’s originally scheduled title defence for the evening, and even though they awarded the Bravados an impromptu shot apparently it doesn’t excuse them having to face the ANX. We saw in Dayton at Rising Above 2012 that King and Titus have felt very overlooked in the tag division over the last six months. Now is their chance to vent that frustration and climb to the top of the tag mountain for the first time. Since WGTT have already wrestled once, and Haas still has to face Jay Briscoe in the main event, you could be forgiven for considering ANX slight favourites…

It’s a four-man slug out to start, with the challengers soon getting Haas out of the ring to unleash a barrage of kicks in Benjamin’s direction. Drop toehold/double knee strike combo gets 2. They look to isolate Haas (the older member of WGTT) only for Shelton to sneak in and take out Titus’ suspect knee. Having injured the knee, Haas and Benjamin (who are sucking air hard by this point) work a series of chinlocks and sleepers probably to give themselves a rest. Benjamin scores a 2-count with a super-ugly gutbuster…and as the champs argue with the official Rhett dives into the hot tag to his partner. ANX tee off on Haas then set him up for the Doomsday Blockbuster. Benjamin kicks King to the floor…and Haas floors Titus with a title belt. At 08:22 WGTT are disqualified for a second time.

Rating – * – If you like sloppy wrestling, obvious botches, tedious exchanges of punches and two old guys lazily working rest holds because it’s a house show this is the match for you. The fact that WGTT are champions whilst Kenny King was allowed to walk away to TNA within two months is absolutely criminal. Two lousy tag matches in succession which have accomplished absolutely nothing.

Adam Cole is backstage and very upset that he has gone winless since he defeated Davey Richards at the 10th Anniversary Show. He is ready to give Ciampa another blemish on his record tonight…

Tommaso Ciampa vs Adam Cole
So both men could do with a win here. As he just pointed out, Cole hasn’t won too many recently – and last week on ppv The Embassy’s Crown Jewel lost his first ever ROH singles match to Jay Lethal. It’s thought that both men are still in contention for the TV Title – so a win here is vital as a queue starts to form behind TV Champion Roderick Strong.

Kevin Kelly is concerned about Ciampa’s mental wellbeing in the aftermath of his defeat to Lethal. He looks pretty composed as he controls the opening exchanges and keeps Cole trapped on the canvas with headlocks. Bare Knee Strike misses though, enabling Adam to kick him out of the ring and land a pescado. PRINCESS MIA SUPERKICKS HIM! That looked awesome and is an amusing play on their relationship in CZW. It leaves Ciampa in charge again, and he hoists Cole up in a wheelbarrow position and maniacally swings him from ringpost to guardrail. COLE COUNTERS WITH AN OCEAN CYCLONE INTO THE APRON! Back in the ring he connects with a Shining Wizard and gets 2. Death Valley neckbreaker nailed as well, and the Dominant Male is in real trouble now. That is until he hits a DEAD LIFT Ocean Cyclone suplex and gets his own nearfall. Adam tries the flying crossbody block but it’s ducked. Florida Key countered too…into BARE KNEE STRIKES! Project Ciampa countered…but Tommaso holds the tights and pins Cole at 10:08

Rating – *** – Throw in a little more time and a better finish and we’d be talking an easy 4* on this. These guys have squared off a few times in ROH but this was comfortably their best match. Hard-hitting and fast paced action from start to finish – this is what ROH used to and should still be about. It was young, talented professionals visibly busting their asses to improve and put on a great match. Ciampa and Cole have been terrific thus far in 2012 and certainly deserve better than the hands they’ve been dealt. This one made the two preceding WGTT matches look like an absolute sham.

Tommaso seems to freak out after the match and walks out without the rest of The Embassy. Ernesto Osiris gets into a shoving match with Adam Cole and is rightly superkicked to the canvas.

The Briscoes are somewhere in the building (Mark already looks drunk as f*ck) vowing to settle an old score with the House Of Truth tonight. Jay Briscoe also plans to beat Charlie Haas up in the main event

Roderick Strong/Michael Elgin vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
Despite being slated to face Charlie Haas in the main event tonight, Jay Briscoe is also here to team up with his brother to face Strong and Elgin. These guys are still bickering about who cost who the money from the big 8-Man Elimination Match at Battle In The Carolinas weekend last year.

Since the House Of Truth are eeeeevil heels, they jump the Briscoes before the bell. No matter, the Briscoes are soon bossing proceedings and haul the match to the outside for a mass brawl. OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE ON THE FLOOR from Elgin to Mark! That wounds the less toothy Briscoe brother and gives the HOT a chance to isolate and work over Jay. He lands the turnbuckle flatliner but can’t make a tag because Truth Martini is on hand to pull Mark away at the vital moment. Finally Mark does get the tag and comes in with Redneck Kung Fu fists flying. Unbreakable shuts him down with a swinging front slam for 2. Alabama Lungblower countered…and everyone piles in to lay into everyone else with big strikes. Truth has hits pants stolen in the melee (and for some weird reason  is wearing Roderick’s trunks)…and Roddy adds to the issues by inadvertently knocking Elgin out with a misplaced Roaring Elbow. Froggy Bow on Elgin gets Mark the win at 08:12

Rating – ** – This kept me entertained, and it helped that the Briscoes were comfortably the most over guys on the whole roster in Richmond tonight – but most of it was pretty generic. All four guys were in the low gears and playing it safe for the house show which is fine…but when you pay good money for a DVD watching some of ROH’s top guys strolling along like they barely give a sh*t isn’t much fun. There were some decent flashes of action, and some good comedy thrown in, but other than Martini wearing Strong’s trunks nothing about this was remotely memorable.

Martini storms off with his metaphorical tail between his legs, leaving Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin to argue amongst themselves…

Chris Silvio and Paredyse cut a somewhat fun odd couple tag team promo ahead of their match with Team A-1 tonight.

Team A-1 vs Totally Awesome
A-1 have been in ROH before and can boast a victory over the current Tag Champions, albeit by DQ, since they defeated WGTT at Underground. They face Silvio and Paredyse: OVW veterans who have had spots on various ROH shows and TV tapings without ever really breaking out.

Silvio starts with some serious wrestling, but Paredyse is soon tagged to bring the metro sexual goofiness. I think it’s Jeff Earley they started with, but Hilton soon joins him to fall victim to Paredyse’s unique offence too. Zak misses a flying leg drop and is drilled into the canvas with a powerbomb from Silvio for 2. Earley saves and drops Silvio right on his neck with a slingshot back suplex for 2. Paredyse takes out Jeff with a flying crossbody but is then thrown out of the ring in real ugly fashion. A-1 look to isolate Paredyse and work plenty of restholds to give Kevin Kelly every opportunity to make multiple dated wrestling references. Team A-1’s heat segment is almost brutally boring by the way…and it’s almost a shock when Paredyse drops Hilton with a Code Red. He drops Zak again with a springboard enziguri then crawls into the hot tag to Silvio…who kills his momentum by botching a gourdbuster spot. Rope run superplex gets thing back on track though…and the crowd are as into this match as they have been for anything all night. Forearm smash puts Earley down for 2. Team A-1 mess up some elbow smash combos…and Totally Awesome pounce. SILVIO FLIPS OFF THE REFEREE INTO A SOMERSAULT HURRICANRANA ON THE FLOOR! Not to be outdone, Jeff angrily hoists him up for a back drop on the metal entrance ramp! Silvio seems dead, only to recover with a rope run exploder suplex. Top rope leg drop misses but Paredyse saves his partner by kissing Jeff. Silvio scores with win with a running elbow smash at 16:05

Rating – ** – I like the sentiment of giving unproven a talent a chance to shine. That’s what ROH is all about. But why the f*ck are these guys getting 15+ minutes and you can only find ten for Ciampa and Cole – two of the biggest breakout stars of 2012? Team A-1 are really not my thing either. They are fundamentally decent, but they are so bland, boring and cookie cutter. I can see why Cornette likes them but, to me, there is no unique selling point to them at all. And speaking of guys Cornette likes, he’s been trying to find something for Chris Silvio to do for months. If he seriously wants to book Silvio, this is the gimmick. The Totally Awesome odd couple routine with Paredyse is the winner. Not saying they will revolutionise the tag division, but they have some entertaining chemistry (a similar formula to the Steen/Generico team – although obviously very different personalities) and they really got over with the Richmond audience.

Eddie Edwards points out that in January at the Norfolk show Mike Bennett got off lightly when their match was cancelled. Tonight it’s ‘Boston vs Boston…man vs b*tch’.

Mike Bennett vs Eddie Edwards
This is one of the marquee matches on this admittedly underwhelming card, but it still represents a huge opportunity for The Prodigy to deliver a significant, match-winning performance against a former World Champion. These two didn’t fight at Underground, and when they finally did meet on ROH TV Bennett’s girlfriend Maria Kanellis got involved to taint the conclusion to their match. Edwards is now the latest ROH athlete looking to ‘beat some respect’ into the brash Mike Bennett.

Bennett looks a little sluggish and flat-footed out of the gate – something that Eddie takes swift advantage of to dominate the early going. The Prodigy switches tactics and tries to trade fisticuffs, only to end up in a tree of woe and eating multiple dropkicks to the face. To the outside where fans actually start holding Bennett down for Edwards to deliver a succession of signature fierce chops. The game-changer comes when Mike sidesteps a shoulder block attempt from Eddie which leads to the former World Champion colliding shoulder-first into the ringpost. Back in the ring he holds Edwards down in a top wristlock…so Eddie uses his legs instead and hits a hurricanrana. Maria Kanellis grabs one of Edwards’ boots to temporarily distract him…and Prodigy capitalises with a spinebuster for 2. Her reward is a disturbingly long kiss from Bennett – and it goes on for so long that it gives Eddie enough time to recover and BOOT Mike out of the ring. Pescado nailed despite the bad shoulder and this one is all evened up. Backpack Stunner (on the good shoulder) gets 2! He scales the ropes looking for that Flying Codebreaker only for Bennett to SWEEP him into a backbreaker! SPEAR ON THE APRON! Eddie lands straight on his bad shoulder then crashes to the floor! The Prodigy tries the spear again only for Edwards to leapfrog and watch Bennett eat guardrail! Double stomp to the back for 2…straight into the ACHILLES LOCK! Box Office Smash countered…into a superkick! BOX OFFICE SMASH NAILED! FOR 2! Having failed to win with his big finish Mike decides to do something crazy and heads upstairs. With Maria’s assistance he hooks Edwards up…EDDIE BACK FLIPS OUT OF THE AVALANCHE BOX OFFICE SMASH! ACHILLES LOCK! Maria hops onto the apron…and is accidentally clobbered by Bennett! Edwards wins with a roll-up at 13:53

Rating – *** – It’s probably not saying much on this show, but this was probably match of the night. In an understated way these two have great chemistry. Bennett is no technical wizard but is very clever and charismatic in what he does…whilst Eddie doesn’t always show much personality but can work circles round most guys. It started slowly and sloppily but never stopped improving, building to a great finish with an amazing spot and clever play off their TV match during March Mayhem. Had they started with more purpose or gotten longer to really flesh out the story they were telling I could have gone higher on my rating. Not quite a show saver, but certainly a good little midcard bout.

Davey Richards vs Jimmy Jacobs
This was originally scheduled to be a tag match with O’Reilly and Steen joining their respective partners – but was cancelled due to a head injury to Steen thus denying Davey the chance to seek revenge for his title loss in Canada. Instead he has to settle for taking his frustrations out on the Zombie Princess – Steen’s ally and running buddy.

Things get started in a hurry as Steen POWERBOMBS O’REILLY INTO THE RING! Davey is distracted by that assault and Jimmy charges into the ring to start stomping him into the corner. Of course, Steen is still on hand to lay in a couple of cheap shots too. Richards retaliates with a double stomp across Jacobs’ chest only to be dragged out of the ring by Steen and thrown into the guardrails. Jimmy wastes time doing silly things like pretending to urinate on Richards and is rightly punished by walking into the Handspring Enzi. Roundhouse kick into a bridging German suplex gets 2. Anklelock applied until O’Reilly needlessly steps onto the apron to cause a scene and get the hold broken. End Time COUNTERED with the Alarm Clock…then Davey hops onto the apron to kick Steen in the chest. End Time…WHILST Davey has Jacobs in the Anklelock. APRON MISSILE DROPKICK FROM O’REILLY TO STEEN! Jacobs taps to the Anklelock at 07:54

Rating – ** – On TV this would actually have been a lot of fun. The constant Steen interference would have been funny rather than annoying. The frustratingly short run time would have been appropriate not a horribly curtailed duration for the match I was possibly most looking forward to on the whole DVD. I know they had TV tapings yesterday, and I know Davey works a crazy schedule. But why the f*ck are there 3 Charlie Haas matches, 2 Jay Briscoe matches, 2 WGTT bullsh*t title defences on this show whilst Ciampa/Cole and this match are criminally short. I know it’s a cliché, but who books this garbage? And for that matter – is O’Reilly injured? How does Charlie Haas get 3 matches on this show whilst Kyle can’t even get on the show at all?

Jay Briscoe vs Charlie Haas – Unsanctioned Match
That’s right folks. Even though we were promised this feud would be finished at Border Wars and then these two teams would stop wrestling – it’s a week later and this feud is still going and 50% of the feud is in the ring together once again…although in fairness I think this is supposed to be unsanctioned so I suppose they can get out of it on a technicality.

Since it’s unsanctioned Jay has to stop the ring crew tearing the ring down and introduce himself. He also doesn’t let Haas in the ring before tearing into him – choking him with the ring apron which had already been half taken down. Fans start handing Jay beers to drink/throw in Charlie’s face…this crowd might not be the loudest but they are doing some cool fan interaction stuff. Briscoe unscrews the top rope from the turnbuckles but has a chair thrown into his face before he can use it. Haas hits the guardrail backbreaker and asks for a beer. The fans say no which is just awesome – as his Haas’ ‘f*ck you then’ retort. The fight continues with only two intact ropes and the two men taking turns to strangle each other with the removed top one. Jay double stomps Haas through a table then immediately pulls out another from under the ring and starts setting that one up too. Kevin Kelly’s commentary is miles out of sync with the action now as he calls Briscoe superkicking Haas in the face with a chair MILES before it happens. Olympic Slam on the removed top turnbuckle nailed…then Charlie grabs a beer bottle. Jay steals it before he can use it…but Shelton Benjamin runs in and hits him with Paydirt. Mark Briscoe makes the inevitable save and SPEARS Benjamin through a table! Haas whacks Jay in the balls with a turnbuckle fastening and wins at 10:41

Rating – ** – Visually it was quite unique to watch two guys fighting as the ring falls apart around them and it wasn’t too bad in truth. It was just an incredibly underwhelming and somewhat boring main event to a really bad night for ROH. This feud has been going on for almost a full year now, with ROH fans desperate for it to be ended for at least six months of that.

‘This sh*t might have been going on way too long, but it ain’t over yet’ – Jay Briscoe. He challenges Haas to a Texas Death Match at the forthcoming Virginia show.

Tape Rating – ** – This event is generally held up as a real low point for ROH, and the pinnacle of how bad the promotion became in 2012. If I’m honest, it’s hard to disagree with them. This was comfortably the worst DVD they’ve released (as a standalone show, not packaged with another event) since Escalation in 2008 and is arguably one of their worst ever shows. The booking is a complete mess and so disconnected with what ROH fans want to see that it’s almost embarrassing to watch. When Gabe was in charge, when he was met with a dilemma like a last minute talent withdrawal, or weather issues, he would freak out and pull out all the stops to do something to make it up to the fans. I’m thinking of Unscripted 3 and the great Danielson/Jacobs match for instance. But Cornette’s coping method was to rob all the best talents of time (7 minutes for Richards/Jacobs, 10 minutes for Cole/Ciampa, 8 minutes for Briscoes/HOT) and give his OVW projects the longest match of the night and book Charlie Haas in THREE F*CKING MATCHES. When you write it down in simple figures like that it’s crazy. And if it couldn’t get worse, not only is the show a skippable mess but it’s also full of audio glitches which really rams it home that ROH just doesn’t give a sh*t about this show. Why they didn’t just bundle it as a free extra event with Border Wars is beyond me.

I’m being hugely critical but you’ll notice most of my complaints are aimed at Cornette and his team. The reality is there are still enough talented guys on the roster who want to work hard and do something entertaining even when their hands are tied. Lethal/Mondo was a real slow burner, Cole and Ciampa did their best with their minimal time allocation, whilst Eddie and Bennett stole the show with a hard fought contest which deserved to have been on a bigger stage and seen by more people. If I was Sinclair I’d be embarrassed by this event. As a live experience and a DVD product it is shamefully not good enough. I will defend on a number of things. For instance, the HDNet show was a mess going nowhere before he came in and, by and large, ever since he came back the television product has been consistent. But he just isn’t connected with the fans in the way that Gabe was, his booking ethos just seems poles apart from what ROH was set up to be. This DVD is an indictment of how far ROH is from the goals it was founded upon back in 2002. This is a low for ROH…you’d hope Sinclair and/or Cornette realise that.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs Mike Mondo (***)
2) Tommaso Ciampa vs Adam Cole (***)
1) Eddie Edwards vs Mike Bennett (***)

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