ROH Unity 4/28/2012

ROH 302 – Unity – 28th April 2012

Say it quietly but, from a strictly in-ring standpoint, ROH has been pretty good recently. Three really decent ppv’s in succession (all of which containing MOTYC’s), some strong episodes of the TV show, and now we come to this – a show which many rank as one of the best house shows of 2012. It’s the second half of a Chicago double-header co-promoted with Chikara. Dubbed ‘Synergy’ weekend, Chikara presented their Hot Off The Griddle event which, amongst a decent card, had the big grudge match between Eddie Kingston and Kevin Steen. Headlining this show is the Tag Title showdown pitting the Briscoes against Chikara’s Jigsaw and Hallowicked…and The Colony are also booked for some signature Chikara trios fun. ROH’s show also features more Steen/Generico madness, a first time ‘dream’ match between WGTT and Team Ambition and the return of the Bravado Brothers from Japan…so it’s safe to say the fans in Chicago Ridge, IL got a great day of wrestling. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino will call the action…

Roderick Strong/Michael Elgin vs All Night Express
Both teams would consider themselves strong contenders to the ROH Tag Championship, so a victory here is key in deciding who moves ahead of who in the tag team pecking order. It was a big night for the House Of Truth last time we saw them live – with Roddy winning the TV Title and Elgin competing in ROH’s 2012 MOTY thus far. Can they continue the momentum in Chicago here?

Elgin starts with Titus, with Rhett absorbing some heavy strikes in the corner before busting out some neat wrestling holds to trap the bigger man on the canvas. He socks Elgin in the mouth with that big dropkick and sends Unbreakable back to his corner with his tail between his legs. King does a decent job out-wrestling Strong as well, as the dominant start by the ANX continues. Titus makes a mistake trying to match strength with Elgin and is caught in an effortless powerslam for 2. Roderick grabs Titus and somehow manages to back suplex him KNEE FIRST on the apron…and from there the HOT find themselves on top and viciously attacking Rhett’s suspect knee. I like that, despite having that injury, Strong doesn’t deviate from his usual tactic of working the back too, clearly realising that it will double the potency of the Stronghold if Titus is carrying two injuries. Hot tag to Kenny who comes in throwing kicks at both opponents like Jet Li. Shotgun Knees on Elgin get 2. Unbreakable is still strong as f*ck though, and he picks up both ANX members for a FALLAWAY SLAM/SAMOAN DROP COMBO! Alabama Lungblower set up but King saves Titus…so Elgin hoists him into the Buckle Bomb instead. SPIRAL BOMB! But the referee is on the outside checking on a seemingly injured Roderick Strong…so the match continues. Roddy is limping away as ANX set Unbreakable up for the DOOMSDAY BLOCKBUSTER! The All Nights win at 14:58

Rating – *** – Good, long opening match. Some of this was awfully sloppy (particularly King in the first five minutes) but they got enough time to have a decent formula tag which got the crowd going. The MOTYC with Davey has already boosted Elgin’s credibility in the eyes of the fans – as he was the most over competitor in this match by a long way and the crowd were audibly disappointed to see him staring at the lights here. It seems strange to job him out in his first outing after his ROH career-best performance…but that seems to be the Sinclair way. They did the same with Adam Cole…only to start pushing him again months later

Roderick’s knee seems a lot better, much to Elgin’s annoyance. They get into a shoving match and go face to face before Truth Martini intervenes to force an unsatisfying truce…

Mike Bennett vs Mike Sydal
This is the only singles match on this evening’s card interestingly. We’ve seen Sydal sporadically in ROH before but, as yet, he hasn’t got close to the sort of performances that made his brother a draw in this promotion. Bennett is coming off recent wins over both Lance Storm and Eddie Edwards and will see this as nothing more than a tune-up for bigger things in his future…

Sydal has Alex Payne’s haircut and cuts a god-awful promo about taking opportunities. Bennett tries to suplex him out of the ring, and is hugely annoyed when Sydal tricks him to the floor and hits a TOP ROPE MOONSAULT! Asai moonsault attempted as well, only for Prodigy to catch him in the splits and dropkick him out of the ring. It sounds like the Chicago crowd are sh*tting on this by chanting ‘Colt Cabana’ over and over (although Kelly and Corino’s commentary track is so loud they sound very quiet through the whole DVD). Sydal lands some scrappy kicks and The Slice…for 2. Standing moonsault gets another nearfall as he continues running through the Matt Sydal/Evan Bourne playbook. Bennett wins with the TKO in 05:13

Rating – DUD – I know it’s hard in squash matches, but from what I’ve seen of him in ROH and a few other promotions, Sydal just doesn’t seem as talented as his brother. Of course the bar is set high because Matt/Evan is a great wrestler…but his whole deal seems to be doing Matt’s spots slightly worse. It doesn’t help either that he was in there with Bennett in total cruise control. The Prodigy gets a rough time from ROH fans anyway – so watching him work at walking pace was just a recipe for disaster. The crowd crapped on this and made their own entertainment since there was none to be had in the ring.

Maria isn’t done and takes the mic to slate Chicago, CM Punk and Lance Storm – who Bennett faces again at Border Wars.

In the back, the Bravados have huge smiles on their faces as they return to Ring Of Honor. Harlem wants to show the world (and Grandma Bravado) everything they learned in the NOAH dojo…

Young Bucks vs Bravado Brothers
Lancelot and Harlem have spent the first quarter of 2012 on hiatus. They had a lousy losing streak through 2011 and, with ROH pulling their bookings, they decided to head to Japan to live and train at the Pro Wrestling NOAH dojo. Their performances in Japan actually received decent reviews and people have been looking forward to seeing them showcase their new skills back here in ROH. They face a team they’ve jobbed out to multiple times in the past – and an improved showing against the Bucks would be a great way to reintroduce themselves.

Lancelot starts with Matt, who isn’t taking this seriously and looks horrified when he is trapped into a rolling Mexican surfboard. Nick doesn’t take the same chance with Harlem and boots him in the chest. They botch a leapfrog spot which, to be fair to the Chicago crowd, they don’t completely sh*t on. Nice work from Harlem as he counters the multi-tag axehandle spot the Jacksons use regularly and turns it into a tornado DDT on Matt for 2. Nick hits the slingshot faceplant on Lancelot to hand the advantage back to them though…which his brother capitalises on to hit the HANDSPRING BACK RAKE! Lance shows his Japanese training by using some powerful boots and elbows to power his way into the hot tag to Harlem…who similarly starts flooring the Bucks with a series of muscular big boots. Judo DDT nailed…then an exploder suplex. Pumphandle suplex from Lancelot nailed, so Matt tosses him and hits a through the ropes dropkick TO THE GUARDRAIL! Tornado DDT attempted by Harlem again, but this time he gets the RVD vs Jerry Lynn treatment and eats turnbuckle of the northern lights. The Bucks score a nearfall with a somersault senton/standing moonsault. Lancelot KILLS both Bucks with more vicious strikes then gets 2 on Matt with a rolling belly to belly. LARIAT COMBO for 2! Running DVD blocked…so the Bravados hit the Gentleman’s Approach instead! Nick dives in to save his brother on the cusp of defeat! Superkick/Shiranui combo takes out Harlem…into stereo superkicks on Lancelot. But he kicks out at 2 to a huge pop! POWERBOMB/ENZI COMBO! MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK COUNTERED! BRAVADOS WIN! It’s over at 13:34

Rating – *** – After that early botch, this became a thrilling little tag match. Even if it was somewhat ironic, the Chicago crowd were red hot in their support for the Bravados and this became very memorable. We know the Young Bucks are pure quality as a team, and as such they were the ideal duo to put the Bravados over on their return. They bumped and flew all over the place to make the ROH students look good, so some credit has to go to them. But I need to clarify – this was in no way a carry job. Lancelot and Harlem clearly worked hard in Japan. They haven’t changed their game much, but they seem to have a far greater appreciation of when to be goofy and when to bust out some really hard-hitting stuff – and that’s the kind of skill which will get them over. They’ll get a decent push if they can keep churning out performances like this one.

The Bravados get a standing ovation for their efforts this evening – and it’s well deserved.

Joe Koff joins Veda Scott in the ring to announce (with incredibly camp hand gestures) that the next Chicago show in September will be Death Before Dishonor on pay-per-view. He can’t get much further before he is interrupted by Kevin Steen (wearing a Colt Cabana shirt) and Jimmy Jacobs. With a line of security protecting the COO (including Tadarius Thomas), Steen promises to be World Champion by the time we get to Death Before Dishonor…then demands that Generico and his partner come out to fight…

Kevin Steen/Jimmy Jacobs vs El Generico/BJ Whitmer
The history between Generico and Steen is well documented. Steen won their most recent battle at Showdown In The Sun with the help of his new ally Jimmy Jacobs…much to the Generic Luchador’s fury. He wanted a tag match and brought in the ideal partner to help him face Jacobs – Jimmy’s biggest rival in ROH, BJ Whitmer. These guys shared a brutal feud in 2006/7, culminating in an amazing Steel Cage Match at Supercard Of Honor 2. BJ looked great in his return to ROH at Rise & Prove and can earn his roster spot back here whilst beating the hell out of an old enemy too…

As you’d expect, this one breaks down into an immediate brawl outside the ring…so at Todd Sinclair’s insistence security separates them and demands a regular tag match. Steen wants No DQ…so does BJ. The ridiculousness continues as Jim Cornette calls Todd Sinclair on his cell and authorises this as a No DQ…so the fight continues. MOONSAULT OFF THE RAIL by Generico! He tries the Half Nelson Suplex on Steen but has to settle for the rope run tornado DDT instead. Whitmer and Jacobs take centre stage – the former Tag Champions renewing their bitter rivalry before our eyes! The babyface team try to use chairs, only to have them stolen and used against them. Steen delivers the devastating chair-enforced somersault leg drop then leads his fans in a ‘Next World Champ’ chant for good measure. Jacobs his the trampoline double stomps, and is so pleased with his dominance over Whitmer that he has a rest in the middle of the ring. Raven drop toehold nailed as well, leaving the heels in total control. Generico takes the Davey Richards tennis racket to the spine and absolutely screams in pain as we approach ten minutes.

Somehow he hits a flying double crossbody then the Michinoku Driver on Mr Wrestling. Jacobs blocks the Blue Thunder Driver…so Whitmer boots him in the mouth as Generico hits a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Rolling fisherman suplexes from BJ to Jacobs gets 2. APRON BOMB BY STEEN! CONTRA CODE ON WHITMER! Jacobs then holds a chair over Whitmer’s face for the Kevin Steen cannonball senton! Generico blocks the F-5 with the Half Nelson Suplex…and it’s only Jimmy and a steel chair which saves the match for his team. BRAINBUSTER THROUGH AN OPEN CHAIR BY WHITMER! That looked horrific! Generico drops Steen with the turnbuckle exploder…only to see the Yakuza Kick countered with a superkick! Steen drags a table into the ring, but takes too long so Generico gives him a BRAINBUSTER ON THE APRON! JACOBS STABS HIM WITH THE SPIKE! He tries to do the same to BJ, but he’s seen that trick before and counters with a big German suplex. Whitmer sets up the table then pursues the Zombie Princess up the turnbuckles directly in front of it. EXPLODER SUPERPLEX THROUGH THE TABLE! With Generico holding Steen down, Whitmer scores a huge victory at 18:27!

Rating – *** – A lot of this was slow and really disjointed…but the one thing it really had going for it was gritty realism. There might have been lots of lulls and stalling, but for the entire twenty minutes these guys were going at it, it really felt like they all hated each other. And as such, it was realistic. It was believable that guys might not hit things cleanly, such was their desire to simply hurt their opponent. It was also really pleasing to see BJ Whitmer get the win. I said in my Rise & Prove review that he was overlooked back in the days when ROH had a deep roster…but has all the tools to be a real asset to the less impressive 2012 cast. I’m pretty sure this is Generico’s last weekend in ROH for the time being, which is a shame because it felt like this was only scratching the surface of what these guys could do together.

Whitmer might have won, but in reality they’re all losers as they all lie flat out on the canvas grimacing and writhing in pain.

The Colony vs Jay Lethal/Adam Cole/TJ Perkins
This is a special ROH vs Chikara trios bout, and in honour of the inter-promotional nature of this encounter it’s going to be fought under Chikara/lucha rules. That means rolling out of the ring constitutes tagging and so forth. Perkins beat Fire Ant at Showdown In The Sun, but in this format The Colony’s experience gives them the edge over the Ring Of Honor trio.

The Chikara team bring Gavin Loudspeaker and their own referee with them. They also win the coin toss which means it’s their ref that gets to officiate the match. Lethal starts with Green Ant and is clearly unsettled by the Ant’s unfamiliar style. TJP gets in there with Fire Ant and looks much more comfortable – forcing him out of the ring after hitting a running headscissors. Cole and Soldier go in next and are the most evenly matched of the combinations we’ve seen thus far. Green and Fire hit a double boot combo, and Adam is totally bewitched as Soldier rounds it off with a Samoan drop. The trios work from The Colony continues to impress…TRIPLE DROPKICK on Lethal! Fire Ant sets up a dive to the floor only for TJ to block it. TRIPLE SUPERKICK BY TEAM ROH! The home team take the advantage, although they continue to display a lack of cohesion and familiarity with the rules as they use regulation tags and work a more traditional style whilst isolating Fire Ant from the rest of The Colony. Soldier Ant capitalises on Lethal dropkicking Fire out of the ring to deliver a saluting flying headscissors. Triple suplex spot from The Colony takes Cole and TJP out. ASSISTED SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR FROM FIRE ANT! Jay tries the Lethal Injection only to be caught in the ropes and hit with another dropkick combo. Jay Lethal has struggled the most to adapt his style to the Chikara rules, and it’s no surprise that it’s the former TV Champion that The Colony try to work over. DOUBLE LETHAL COMBINATION on Fire and Soldier…but he’s so beaten up he struggles to tag or roll out of the ring! Cole flattens Soldier with a Shining Wizard for 2. Fire Ant saves his partner with a satellite DDT…before TJ saves HIS partner with a neckbreaker on him. The Chikara referee inadvertently obstructs Perkins going for a dive…allowing Soldier Ant to steal his thunder and hit a tope suicida instead. Border City Stretch on Fire Ant! Soldier, Green and Lethal all go to opposing top turnbuckles. SIMULTANEOUS MISSED DIVING HEADBUTTS! Perkins has Fire Ant pinned, but again the referee doesn’t see it. Green Ant sneaks in and flips the pin…giving Fire the win at 15:08

Rating – **** – I loved this. Admittedly the fact that I’ve not had much exposure to the Chikara style probably helped…but what I particularly enjoyed was the subtle intelligence the whole match was wrestled with. This wasn’t the usual Chikara exhibition match they work when wrestling the style in other promotions. And this wasn’t ROH forcing the masked guys to do something they weren’t comfortable with. Instead they told a great story with The Colony constantly out-witting the ROH team thanks to their fluidity as a team and their familiarity with the rules. And they stuck with that story-telling to the finest details – such as The Colony never tagging whilst Team ROH always stuck to the traditional tag style. Some of the three, four and six man spots were elaborate and entertaining, and the conclusion gives Team ROH an out whilst allowing The Colony to keep their credibility with a huge win on opposition territory. That could well have been match of the night…

Team Ambition are in the back. Both of them have suffered losses to WGTT in the past 18 months with their former partners. They promise it’ll be a different story tonight..

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Davey Richards/Kyle O’Reilly
If the Briscoes can keep the ROH tag straps out of the hands of Team Chikara in the main event, then these two duos are just itching for another shot at the belts themselves. WGTT have beaten both the American Wolves and Future Shock in the past…but have never faced Team Ambition before. It’s a tough task, but Haas and Benjamin surely need to win this if they are to force Jim Cornette’s hand and earn themselves yet another shot at their arch enemies.

Interestingly, Kyle actually forces Richards out of the ring and demands to start for Team Ambition. He rather stupidly tries to get the better of Haas in a mat-wrestling exchange and comes off on the losing end. O’Reilly ends up frustrated and stomps out of the ring in a sulk, forcing Davey to take over whether he wants to or not. The World Champion enters and looks to negate Shelton’s athleticism by holding him down in a side headlock. It’s WGTT’s turn to leave the ring throwing tantrums now. O’Reilly wants another shot at Charlie, which Richards reluctantly agrees to. It’s a little more successful this time, but even though he traps Haas in a cross armbreaker he doesn’t have the strength to maintain the hold and soon comes crashing down into a powerbomb. The former Tag Champions set to work cutting the ring in half and preventing Kyle from getting anywhere near to tagging his mentor. Benjamin nearly undoes all that hard work by delivering a belly to belly suplex with such power than he almost propels Kyle right across the ring. Richards does eventually get the tag and scatters his opponents with big kicks. MISSILE DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR BY O’REILLY! In the ring Davey puts Shelton in the Anklelock, then boots him in the chest when he escapes. Benjamin no sells and begs Richards to hit him again! ROUNDHOUSE KICK/BRAINBUSTER gets 2 for Team Ambition. Stereo Machine Gun Dropkicks! But Kyle doesn’t stop! Davey has to drag him off Haas to stop their team getting disqualified…and it gets worse when Charlie shoves Kyle into his mentor and Team Ambition start fighting amongst themselves. O’Reilly flees having accidentally knocked out his own partner and doesn’t seem to want to help save him from a 2-on-1 beatdown. The next few minutes are literally Davey vs WGTT, with periods of him defying the odds and taking them both on, but largely it’s Richards getting his ass handed to him by the veterans. O’Reilly finally takes the tag, easily flooring Benjamin with a strike combo then catching him in the Guillotine Choke. Haas tries to save so Kyle puts him in the hold instead! Tornado DDT OFF Haas…back to the Choke on Shelton! ANKLELOCK BY DAVEY! Charlie saves with the Olympic Slam! He gets into a strike duel with Haas, which is a distraction as he doesn’t see Paydirt coming. Benjamin takes the victory at 21:26

Rating – *** – Considering how much heat WGTT have with the fans, you probably won’t want to hear that this was one of their best matches in 2012. Of course it helps that they were in there with supremely talented wrestlers like Richards and O’Reilly – who can work a style much more suited to Haas and Benjamin. If you’re being critical, you have to say that all the best things we saw came from Davey and Kyle though. Their dissension teases were innovative…and O’Reilly continued to excel as a complete tool. The segment with him accidentally f*cking Davey over then running away was an obvious highlight. And although Haas and Benjamin won, honestly, it’s the direction of Team Ambition that I’m much more interested in coming out of this show.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Jigsaw/Hallowicked – ROH Tag Title Match
This is the culmination of Synergy – Jigsaw and Hallowicked returning to ROH representing Chikara and looking to take the Tag Titles from the Ring Of Honor legends. They already have one victory over the champions – defeating them amidst chaotic scenes at Homecoming 2012 which saw half of the Chikara roster invade the arena. The Briscoes didn’t take losing to ‘bitches, bugs and loony tunes’ very well, and are looking for revenge in the main event tonight.

Mark is so fired up for the match he forgets his title belt in the aisle and has to go back to get it. He doesn’t pull any punches when he starts out with Hallowicked either. Wicked absorbs that and FLIES at Jay with a tope suicida! Mark hits a dive as well…and it’s rounded out as Jigsaw hits a RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Even with everyone on the deck Mark and Wicked are still stiffing the sh*t out of each other by the way. Brawling on the floor obviously suits the champions, and it’s no surprise that they take the advantage and start throwing the masked men into the rails, ringposts and anything else they come across. It’s when they take the match back inside and Jay tries a flying crossbody (obviously something more suited to the Chikara guys) that the challengers threaten a comeback. It’s short-lived though, with Jay brutally swinging Jigsaw onto the guardrails again moments later. This is totally one-sided at this point, with the Briscoes so dominant Mark has time to dance on the ropes like a lunatic before hitting a springboard senton for 2. Hallowicked lands a few strikes…but again makes little progress before Jay decapitates him with a lariat. Splash Mountain Neckbreaker gets 2 seconds later. Doomsday Device blocked…and Jig shoves Mark THROUGH THE ANNOUNCE TABLE! DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON JAY GETS 2! With one Briscoe injured on the floor, the challengers have a window of opportunity to work the numbers and put a beatdown on the other one. Jay takes some serious punishment before Mark finally comes to his aid with the Redneck Kung Fu. JOHN WOO DROPKICK nearly sends Jigsaw through the turnbuckles for 2…but the former Vulture Squad member hits back moments later with a brainbuster. RYDIEN BOMB/GERMAN SUPLEX COMBO gets 2 for Team Chikara. The referee gets bumped as the challengers hit a DOUBLE STOMP/GO 2 SLEEPY HOLLOW COMBO! The Chikara ref slides in…and is promptly waffled by a stray right hand from Jay Briscoe. DOOMSDAY DEVICE NAILED! FOR 2! The Colony come to the ring to support their masked allies…bringing Team ROH from earlier to the ring as well. Jigsaw gets 2 with a similar to roll-up to that which saw him score victory in the Proving Ground at Homecoming…but Mark saves with the Froggy Bow. That’s enough to win at 16:41

Rating – *** – Probably slightly better than Homecoming, but with less Chikara guys around ringside it wasn’t anywhere near as exciting and memorable in the concluding moments. It was a solid 3* match, but much as with their first encounter in January, it was just so one-sided in favour of the Briscoes it was hard to get really excited. There was never a point where it felt like Jig or Wicked were credible opponents to the 7-time ROH Tag Champions, and that really damaged my interest.

The ten men representing their respective promotions all shake hands and show each other respect as the crowd chant ‘Synergy’. Nice way to end a tremendously entertaining night of wrestling

Tape Rating – *** – Granted only one match broke 4* level (and even that was a generous 4*), but this was still such a fun show. If you exclude Bennett/Sydal, every single match got time and made the most of it. ANX/HOT was a fun opener. Bucks/Bravados was such a pleasant surprise on the undercard, and a hell of a return match for Lancelot and Harlem. The Steen-erico No DQ Brawl was predictably good, whilst the second half with the ROH vs Chikara Matches was equally strong. Even WGTT produced their best in-ring performance of 2012 thus far on this card. So even if nothing was overly outstanding (if you watch a lot of Chikara, you probably won’t have got anywhere near as much out of the ROH vs Chikara trios match as I did), it was a great night of wrestling and a DVD you should really consider checking out – particularly once it starts getting marked down towards the end of the year.

Top 3 Matches
3) Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Davey Richards/Kyle O’Reilly (***)
2) El Generico/BJ Whitmer vs Kevin Steen/Jimmy Jacobs (***)
1) The Colony vs Jay Lethal/Adam Cole/TJ Perkins (****)