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ROH Winter Warriors Tour: Dayton 1/31/2015

ROH 369 – Winter Warriors Tour: Dayton – 31st January 2015

I’m told that ROH’s new year really gets kick-started with this event tonight. Not that what has come before thus far in January has been terrible…but it has been very much still stuck in the same rut as the vast majority of 2014. Our scheduled main event tonight sees the Briscoe Brothers renew an old rivalry with Matt Sydal, alongside his current partner ACH. That is extremely promising, and just under it is the a match that many have called a legitimate MOTYC – as Roderick Strong becomes the latest member of the ROH roster to step up to the undefeated Alberto El Patron. Michael Bennett faces Tommaso Ciampa, Jay Lethal is booked in an interview segment after barely escaping with the TV Title last night in Dearborn, and long-time independent scene standouts Chris Dickinson and Aeroform (Louis Lyndon and Flip Kendrick) make main show debuts. We’re in Dayton, OH at the same Montgomery County Fairground venue that Ring Of Honor has been running since 2003. Kevin Kelly and Truth Martini appear to be the lead commentators for the evening, although I presume other assorted characters will pop up alongside KK as the night progresses.

Mark Briscoe is doing some backstage reporting alongside Cheeseburger. In a scene reminiscent of Da Hit Squad on the very first ROH shows – they head outside into a snowy Ohio evening to interview some fans as they line up outside the building.

Romantic Touch vs Will Ferrara
At least we’re getting the crap I don’t care about out of the way early. Both of these guys are ROH Dojo graduates. Romantic Touch/Rhett Titus isn’t a favourite of mine, and certainly isn’t someone who is going to help Ferrara (who has a certain tenacious quality about him) to improve.

Touch begins with his usual barrage of homo-erotic joke spots. I’m not particularly amused by them, although I will give credit to Will who sells them with both enthusiasm and some genuine comic timing. He scores with a tope suicida…before RT retaliates with a slingshot double knee to the guts. He stays on the midsection with a flapjack over the top rope for 2. Ferrara is soon so injured that Touch thinks he can do more of his silly gimmick crap, and pays the price with a lungblower. But when Will EATS his signature rose he makes the kid pay with the trademark big dropkick. A clubbing lariat takes him down again, followed by an INVERTED Pedigree (with added teabagging)! Will ducks the Aries reverse elbow though, and wins with the Sonic Boom at 10:07

Rating – ** – The biggest compliment I can pay these two is that I didn’t hate this. I was expecting to detest it, but actually they put on a perfectly acceptable little wrestling match. Touch is the more experienced of the two and has an established gimmick/moveset. He moves with more certainty around the ring and it made sense that he would dominate for long periods. But as we’ve so often seen from Ferrara – he has a dogged fighting spirit and some of the highlights of this match were when he gamely (albeit often very sloppily) fought back from an extended beatdown sequence. Neither man is needed on the roster at all – but since they are here this could have been a lot worse.

Michael Elgin vs Chris Dickinson
The timing of this booking for ‘Dirty’ Chris Dickinson was extremely strange. This is a guy who has been around the indy scene for a while, and in general received a lot of praise for his work. However, you rather felt that if he was ever going to get a shot in ROH it would have been well before this point. He is a controversial and outspoken character – and in the months that followed this event got plenty of press across the wrestling media with such antics as interrupting ten bell salutes and a rather violent intergender match that went somewhat viral. He does, however, have plenty of skill in the ring and (unlike so many of the guys that come into ROH these days) also has years of seasoning and experience to help him prepare for this opportunity. He faces a frustrated, angry and aggressive Michael Elgin who is just a month away from the World Title rematch he so craves.

Just like with the Mark Briscoe match from the previous evening, Elgin isn’t attempting anything flashy from the bell and simply engages his opponent in some stiff strikes. Dickinson returns fire in kind, setting the tone for a physical match. EXPLODER INTO THE GUARDRAILS BY ELGIN! After that devastating blow Elgin goes straight back to punishing elbow and forearm smashes. Chris is on the ropes and fights for all he is worth to block the Buckle Bomb. ENZIGURI DUEL! BACK DROP DRIVER gets Dickinson a 2. Elgin gives him a knee in the face to block the Pazuzu Bomb (check out what he did to Kimber Lee with that)…but then misses the Tiger Body Press. Corkscrew enzi ducked…Chaos Theory blocked! LARIATOOOOOO by Elgin! Confident he is on the cusp of victory, the former World Champion sets up his dead-lift superplex. It’s too early though, and Dickinson floats out to counter into a NECK DROP OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX! Burning Hammer attempted by the debutant, only for Unbreakable to land on his feet and double stomp his chest. AVALANCHE FIREMAN’S CARRY POWERBOMB…GETS 2! Again Dickinson refuses to be Buckle Bombed though…and German suplexes Elgin ON HIS FACE! POP-UP POWERBOMB BY ELGIN…ROLLED INTO THE BUCKLE BOMB! ELGIN BOMB! Elgin wins at 12:56

Rating – **** – This came from absolutely nowhere and completely rocked the house. I felt like it was 2003 and I was watching the likes of Samoa Joe, Low Ki, Homicide and Bryan Danielson beat the sh*t out of each other. Michael Elgin is well and truly back on track after this – where he ditched the vast majority of his signature moveset and instead focused on stiffing lumps out of his opponent. And he needed to be at his best because he was in the ring with a debutant who was on an absolute mission. Dickinson isn’t a naïve rookie. He knew this was his big chance and he left everything in the ring here. I’m sure someone like CM Punk wouldn’t like seeing a debutant, in the second match on the card, throwing around ridiculous head drops and the like…but he carried himself like a star and delivered a startlingly impressive performance. This was the kind of stand-up-and-take-notice undercard match that ROH used to be known for, but Sinclair and Delirious have almost stamped out over the last few years. You knew you were watching something special when, around four minutes into the match, Kevin Kelly abandoned his usual asinine chatter (with Truth Martini), and from that point until the final bell didn’t mention other wrestlers, angles or matches. Elgin and Dickinson turned an aimless filler bout into an event which simply couldn’t be ignored. Surely Chris Dickinson has to be brought back after this?

Michael Bennett vs Tommaso Ciampa
So much of what ROH produces these days all blurs into one, so I can’t actually remember if Tommaso has had any significant interaction with The Kingdom up to this point. Bennett lost a World Title Match last night, but in 2015 the ROH World Title doesn’t mean a great deal apparently – and he is back to goofing around and acting just the same as he always does. He will probably want to rebound from that loss though, in much the same way that Ciampa will be looking to beat him on the road to Las Vegas and the High Stakes World Title fourway.

The Kingdom do a random Ghostbusters parody Code Of Honor…then give Ciampa a double superkick before the bell which almost ends the match in mere seconds. Tommaso prepares to return fire with an exposed knee, eventually delivering one on the outside when The Prodigy tries to run. After a couple more Ciampa ends up in the crowd…where he gets distracted by a random guy in a Knights Of The Rising Dawn mask. Matt Taven takes the opportunity to blast him with a springboard enzi off the railings, adding more fuel to some of the rumours that The Kingdom have something to do with the KRD stuff. Referee Paul Turner is hopelessly manipulated as Taven and Maria take turns interfering, before the inevitable Bennett/Maria misfire on the apron – which seems to happen at almost every show now. More Bare Knee strikes from Tommaso, but he gets distracted from the outside again and eats a Spear on the floor. He tries another inside the ring only to run into another knee. Ciampa seems too wounded to capitalise though and is levelled again with the TKO seconds later. I will say that the entire Kingdom (Bennett, Taven and Maria) dancing around like Matt Hardy before Mike attempts the Twist Of Fate is awesome. Ciampa blocks it though, then decides his best course of action is to cannonball off the apron at Taven. Maria gives him a weak-ass chair shot, then runs away when it does no apparent damage. All three Kingdom members try to leave…but get stopped on the apron by Hanson (who was scheduled to wrestle Taven later). Of course, Hanson and Ciampa are both in the Vegas main event so go nose-to-nose, and as they do so Taven decides the best thing to do is to cancel Ciampa/Bennett and have a tag match. That makes this a no contest at 11:20-ish I think?

Rating – ** – Both Bennett and Ciampa were in total house show mode. Since ROH’s business really isn’t dependent on these live events or DVD sales to survive now, that mentality is probably more understandable. The wrestling wasn’t especially clever, however I will say that I never once felt bored – largely thanks to the oddball antics of The Kingdom. Taven and Bennett don’t have the expansive back-catalogue of 4* matches that many of ROH’s elite players have, but they do have great chemistry together and the gimmick really works for them.

Michael Bennett/Matt Taven vs Tommaso Ciampa/Hanson
Physically this may seem like quite the mismatch. Hanson and Ciampa are big, imposing individuals. Hell, Tommaso is the guy who totally destroyed Matt Taven in less than five minutes to end his year-long TV Title reign. However, in a tag team format the deck isn’t quite as stacked against The Kingdom as you might expect. They are fresh back from an enormously successful New Japan tour, giving these long-time friends much needed time to hone their act as a team. The fact that Hanson and Ciampa are facing each other in just a few weeks in Las Vegas shouldn’t escape their attention either.

I’m not entirely sure if we’ll get a bell here, but the action gets underway with The Kingdom missing tandem pescados and getting completely decimated with a Hanson tope suicida. Ciampa exposes the hard wood floor of the building to suplex Bennett onto. Maria and her picturesque butt intervene, distracting the War Psychopaths for long enough to enable Taven to hit a RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE! Sensibly The Kingdom bring things back inside the ring where they are able to use a combination of pretty nifty double teams and clever manipulation of the rules to maintain some control over Tommaso. It all falls apart after a few minutes though, with Bennett accidentally superkicking his own partner – leading to Hanson getting tagged and clubbing the snot out of both of them. Bronco Buster misses, but apparently Hanson has balls of steel as he bounces straight up into the inverted powerslam. Kingdom land the Superkick/Spear combo for 2! Hanson saves Ciampa from the Spike PIledriver…and Tommaso DVD’S BENNETT INTO TAVEN’S BALLS! REPEATED BARE KNEE/BRONCO BUSTER COMBO! TWIST OF FATE ON THE FLOOR from Bennett to Ciampa! SUPERKICK FLURRY ON HANSON! NO SOLD! DOUBLE SUPERKICK FLURRY! HANSON IS STILL NO SELLING! DEATH BY SUPERKICK! TWIST OF FATE/SWANTON BOMB COMBO! FOR 2! It’s Tommaso’s turn to save his partner from the Spike Piledriver, scooping Taven up for the AIR RAID CRASH ON THE APRON! Bridging pin on Bennett…TAVEN SAVES WITH THE FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH! Maria tosses the Title Of Love to Bennett, and he levels Ciampa with it. SPIN KICK OF DOOM ON THE BELT! Taven nearly pounces and wins it all with the springboard enzi on Hanson! This is insane! CARTWHEEL DUEL BETWEEN HANSON AND TAVEN! TAVEN MATRIX DUCKS A LARIAT! DISCUS LARIAT BY CIAMPA! HANSON-SAULT NAILED! HANSON WINS! I didn’t ever have a time on this sadly…but it kicked all kinds of ass!

Rating – **** – This was frantic, breathless and outrageously exciting. Putting Bennett and Taven together as a team has reinvigorated their careers in a way even I never thought possible (and I liked them both before). They bounce off each other so well, with Bennett covering Taven’s charisma deficiencies whilst Taven provides the athleticism and acceleration that Bennett’s matches sometimes lack. This match demonstrated, beyond question, how much their exposure to NJPW rings, talent and crowds helped them too. Taven, in particular, was so much more crisp and precise – particularly with his strikes. Between them they were consistently under-achieving midcard acts, but since uniting them as a team they’ve already produced a few KILLER matches, and they made the ideal opposition for a pair of hard-hitting brawlers like Ciampa and Hanson. Hanson gets the rub of a big victory, but matches of this quality mean everyone comes away looking like a star, win or lose. That is a mentality Ring Of Honor has lost during Sinclair’s time in charge, and something they seem to be rediscovering quickly on this show.

The House Of Truth thankfully interrupt Kevin Kelly’s attempts to interview some guy from a reality TV show I’ve never heard of. Jay Lethal objects to the beardy reality TV guy since HE is the biggest star on TV apparently. J.Diesel wants to wrestle him (although flubs so many lines it becomes more funny than threatening). Cheeseburger and Samson Walker (renamed ‘Big Mac’ for the evening) are brought out to stand in for cliché beard guy

Jay Lethal/J. Diesel vs Cheeseburger/Samson Walker
Cheeseburger has had run-ins with the House Of Truth before, and almost always come up on the short end of the stick. This time, though, he has significantly bigger back up (than Brutal Bob anyway) in the form of ‘Big Mac’ Samson. Will having a massive black guy in his corner make him any more of an imposing opponent than having a portly, old, bald white guy in a tugboat captain’s hat?

Cheeseburger’s music plays over the start of the match, New Jack style…which would actually be a pretty fun gimmick for Cheesey. Walker tries to toss him at the HOT, and when they catch his little partner with ease Samson flies himself with a colossal suicide dive. Kevin Kelly having to instruct Burger and Samson on which is the correct corner to stand in is an embarrassingly amateurish incident however. Truth Martini trips Cheese as he lines up his Shotei…so reality TV Mike trips Diesel up in return. Lethal having to sell Cheeseburger’s strikes is a real downer, and as the clock ticks past seven minutes this one has already gone on far too long. Burger hits the Shotei on Lethal, followed by the implausible tornado DDT on Diesel for 2…before Diesel then BOTCHES KICKING OUT of a spinebuster by Big Mac. Hail To The King from Lethal to Burger, and he sportingly lets Diesel finish things off with a Jackhammer at 09:32

Rating – DUD – This has been a really strong show so far, so it’s a real shame that this match had to kill the flow. Cheeseburger and Diesel simply don’t belong in ROH. Burger may well get pops for being little, but as soon as he wrestles his heat completely dies because everything he does just isn’t plausible. And on the flip side Diesel is a straight up terrible wrestler. He botches something every time he works a match. ROH is on national television, has created some of the biggest stars in the business today and has been in business for almost thirteen years. At this point in its existence people like Diesel have no business being a part of the show. Even Samson Walker would be a better fit for his enforcer/bodyguard role, and since he’s not five feet nothing he’d look a lot more imposing too…

SIDENOTE – I feel like I make a lot of the same criticisms of acts like Cheeseburger and Romantic Touch almost every time they appear in ROH now. But there is a reason for that, and that reason is that they do almost the same thing, the exact same routine, on every show. There is no discernible difference from one Cheeseburger or Romantic Touch match to the next (other than the identity of their opponents). They are ostensibly comedy characters, and I understand the value of providing some light relief and more jovial characters in what can be quite a serious product pallet. But these guys have been in ROH for a very long time now. If somebody could give me one solid example of how Cheeseburger or RT’s acts have changed or evolved over the last eighteen months I would genuinely be both interested and surprised. Any half decent comedian wouldn’t go on stage night after night, for years at a time telling the exact same joke. ROH needs to decide quickly what they want to do with these guys. Either the joke gets a punchline (i.e. Romantic Touch drops the mask and is outed as Rhett Titus all along)…or they get some new material to keep the character going. Colt Cabana was, for a long time, Ring Of Honor’s resident jester – and he was extremely good at it. He was (and remains) a far better ‘comedic’ wrestler than Burger or Rhett could ever hope to be. Yet when people look back on his ROH career I’d wager they remember the times his humour (or at times, lack of it) was used to enhance the product, such as his odd couple act with CM Punk, his feuds with Nigel McGuinness and Homicide, or his participation in the Jacobs/Lacey or Steen/Generico storylines. They probably don’t remember the times he got a few cheap laughs doing the same ‘Artful Dodger, Bionic Elbow, European chain wrestling’ sequence in almost every single match. In essence, if these guys are to stay on the roster and stop becoming the complete and total time-wasting drag that they currently are, ROH needs to decide what the ‘purpose’ for acts like Cheeseburger and Romantic Touch actually is. If they are simple comedy guys to brighten up the place, that’s absolutely fine. But for heaven’s sake give them some new material and stop having them do the exact same thing night after night. Why not try making Cheeseburger a comedy heel, hire someone like Samson as his 911-style bodyguard, and have him acting all cocky and genuinely believing he can beat up guys like Hanson (something along the lines of a Crash Holly). If, particularly in the case of Romantic Touch, there are some bigger plans in place – then please for the love of all things sacred deliver the ‘punchline’ to this never-ending, constantly tedious gimmick – out him as Rhett Titus and lets all move on with our lives. It’s doing Ring Of Honor, and the workers themselves, no favours continually putting these terrible and tired acts onto their shows.

Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer vs Aeroform
Louis Lyndon (who has thankfully ditched the goofy wig) and Flip Kendrick have been around for a long time. They were, at one point, getting regular work for WWNLive so their booking at this show was something of a surprise (much like Chris Dickinson). They are natural opponents for The Decade though – flippy, spotty, happy-go-lucky characters who would rather steal the show than respect the outdated locker room conventions of the veterans. Can Whitmer and Jacobs overcome the recent tension within their ranks, as well as the loss of Roderick Strong, and deliver a strong performance in BJ’s home state?

Lyndon and Kendrick quite literally flip and somersault down the aisle during their entrance. You can just imagine how much that will annoy The Decade – making this great booking. Jacobs turns up to compete in pink skinny jeans and white loafers, which even for him is pretty weird. He doesn’t even take his coat off and is apparently irate at having to wrestle flippy spot monkeys. Amusingly it then takes him a full two minutes to remove enough of his ridiculous attire before he is even ready to wrestle. Louis isn’t daunted by the spectacle and somersaults all over the ring until Whitmer silences him with some heavy hitting. Aeroform show their experience as a team with a few double teams but struggle to overcome BJ’s power. In fact, Jacobs’ only real contribution to The Decade’s act is to periodically tag in to take liberties with his opponents – like pulling their ears, raking their eyes or rubbing his bare feet in their mouths. Lyndon has to absorb the brunt of their aggression, which makes sense given that he is the far more vocal, cocky and charismatic of the newcomers. It takes several minutes for Kendrick to force his way back inside – and he lives up to his name by back flipping into a hurricanranas on both opponents. DIVING Edge-O-Matic gets 2! SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR by Lyndon! Kendrick misses a Phoenix Splash though, and walks into Jimmy’s Spear. All Seeing Eye finishes Kendrick at 11:51

Rating – *** – This was perhaps a little longer than it needed to be, but I found this entirely enjoyable from start to finish. Aeroform were such perfect opponents for The Decade, and were actually able to reign in a lot of their usual annoying habits (going on what I’ve seen of them on WWNLive shows) whilst still making a real impression on their debut. As ever, Jacobs was the star of the show, delivering a perfectly judged and weighted performance as the antagonist of the piece. I’ve never been a massive fan of Aeroform, but on the strength of this match they definitely deserve another shot somewhere down the road.

Roderick Strong vs Alberto El Patron
The Briscoes may be competing in the main event, but for most this is the main draw on this show. Alberto’s mini-tour of Ring Of Honor continues tonight with him looking to extend his unbeaten record still further in preparation for challenging Jay Lethal at the 13th Anniversary Show. Christopher Daniels and ACH have already stared at the lights for him, and as he readies himself to potentially become the ROH TV Champion – who could be more apt an opponent for him than a former TV Champion? Although Roddy’s scheduled 13th Anni match isn’t quite as high profile (a grudge match against BJ Whitmer), this is still a huge bout for him. He has vowed to make 2015 his year and knows that being the one to end the great Alberto El Patron’s undefeated streak in this promotion will carry some serious cache. It would also put him at the front of the queue for a title shot if El Patron wins in Vegas. He comes into this match with a heavily taped shoulder – a result of being assaulted by Whitmer last night in Dearborn. Given how proficient his opponent is at targeting that particular body part, you have to figure he is at a serious disadvantage here.

Patron instantly goes after the injured arm, quickly leaving the bandaging ragged and ripped away from Strong’s skin. To his credit, Roderick doesn’t back down an inch and responds by taking Alberto off his feet and looking to apply the Stronghold. That earns him nothing more than a flurry of violent strikes from the former WWE Champion, then another armbar. Strong drops him sternum-first over the guardrails, but still El Patron keeps battering him with some savage strikes. Mr ROH goes after the back…but gets cocky and walks into the HANGING ARMBAR ON THE BAD ARM! NO SOLD! OLYMPIC SLAM…gets 2! Now selling his arm, Roddy stomps hard on the chest again then clings to a bear hug as he continues to wear down the midsection of his opponent. Ever the pro, AEP grabs the arm to get out of it…then knocks Roderick out of the ring for an ELBOW SUICIDAAAAAAA! He got so much momentum behind that he almost killed himself against the guardrails! And still the tenacious ROH Triple Crown Champion keeps coming back! Such is the physicality that both men are bleeding as we cross the ten minute mark. CRADLE BACKBREAKER by Strong, even as his nose pours with blood. Alberto hits a lungblower to counter Death By Roderick…and yet again Roddy refuses to stay down and just keeps swinging away at him. He chases the lucha legend up the ropes for a big superplex – and for the first time in his ROH career Patron’s undefeated streak is in real jeopardy. Stronghold blocked INTO A DOUBLE KNEE ARMBREAKER! As an aside, Maria Kanellis is on commentary for this one and is doing a hell of a job. ELBOW SMASH DUEL! These guys are beating the sh*t out of each other! DEATH BY RODERICK! GIBSON DRIVER! EL PATRON KICKS OUT! Desperate to force victory, Strong goes for one big, decisive strike with the turnbuckle backbreaker, but finds it countered to a TREE OF WOE DOUBLE STOMP ON THE ARM! CROSS ARMBREAKER APPLIED! STRONG ESCAPES WITH A DISGUSTING KICK TO THE FACE! JUMPING KNEES BY STRONG! SICK KICK! ALBERTO KICKS OUT AGAIN! Strong’s arm is too injured for him to hit End Of Heartache – and he gets COUNTERED BACK TO THE CROSS ARMBREAKER! HE TAPS! Alberto emerges from this war with another victory. 18:02 is your time

Rating – ****1/2 – Last year in this building AJ Styles and Chris Hero beat the hell out of each other in a match that would go on to become my ROH 2014 MOTY. To give you some perspective, I thought this was even better than that match. We all knew Alberto was an outstanding wrestler, but even with that knowledge, the strength of his ROH run thus far has been remarkable. This was a quite stunning performance from a wrestler who has more than enough money and doesn’t need to be killing himself like this in front of a few hundred fans at a state fair. The real brilliance of this one wasn’t that he worked hard, struck hard and matched Strong in that regard. No, the genius here is that Alberto won the match (advancing his own reputation in the process), but actually spent the vast majority of this one making Roddy look like a million bucks. Strong came in with the injured arm, and that was a sub-plot as things progressed, but he would spent the bulk of the match on offence. He was ‘Mr ROH’ – this was his building, his ring and his promotion. He stood his ground against the invading superstar and used his speed, strength, resilience and skill to push El Patron to the limit. No matter what Alberto tried, Roddy would always spring back to his feet and come back even harder than before. Quite simply the best Ring Of Honor match I’ve seen in a very long time. This is must-see if you haven’t already.

As fans give both men a standing ovation, BJ Whitmer rushes in and gets in some cheapshots on the exhausted Roderick Strong. Alberto puts him in the Cross Armbreaker for good measure, as Jimmy Jacobs sprints to the ring and tells BJ he should never have been out there in the first place. Strong and Patron hug it out, both looking genuinely thrilled at how great that match was.

Moose isn’t booked tonight, but invades the show anyway – flanked by Stokely Hathaway. The sound guy doesn’t cut Moose’s music off, meaning all of Big Stoke’s promo is drowned out. It looks comically bad, but the point is that Moose wants to be World Champion and will be watching Jay Briscoe’s performance in the main event with interest. In fact, he remains at ringside as the participants in the main event start to make their way out.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Matt Sydal/ACH
Back in the day Matt Sydal would team with anyone and everyone in his dogged pursuit of the Tag Titles. Be it AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Claudio Castagnoli or Christopher Daniels – he was relentless in his pursuit of those belts. As such, the Briscoes have crossed paths with him many times before – including amazing matches against Sydal and Davey Richards at Anarchy In The UK, Sydal and Claudio at Respect Is Earned and even taking the Tag Championship from Sydal and Daniels during the 5th Year Festival. After his extended hiatus in the WWE (where he won yet more tag team gold of course), Sydal is back in Ring Of Honor and appears to have found a kindred spirit in ACH. They stole the show back during Survival Of The Fittest 2014 weekend when facing each other, and have become something of a tag team since then. Of course a win over the legendary Briscoes would give them an immediate claim to a Tag Title shot, both are singles wrestlers too and will be aware that defeating the World Champion would also put them in pole position to challenge for the top prize in the promotion.

ACH comes out wearing an AJ Styles shirt in an attempt to get him to agree to his challenge for a match at the 13th Anniversary. He also does a great job of actually slowing the pace in the opening minutes, purely to negate Mark’s goofiness. That lasts for quite a few minutes before Mark is able to trap him in the corner for some Redneck Kobashi neck chops. Sydal tags in and shows his seniority by sensibly orchestrating an assault on Jay Briscoe’s suspect shoulder. Quickly the World Champion is driven out of the ring, allowing his two opponents to work over his little brother – who is, on paper at least, the weaker member of the team. He’s still better than most though, and blocks Matt’s standing moonsault with a savage kick across the face. As outstanding as his career has been, injuries have inevitably taken their toll on Sydal and it’s him that the veteran Briscoes single out and isolate. They are rugged, uncompromising and ruthless as they spend several minutes pounding on his neck. ACH comes to his rescue and sprints across the apron into a soccer kick across Mark’s chest. It means that once again he and his partner can concentrate on working over the younger, non-World Champion Briscoe – and now go to work on his left knee (which is heavily bandaged). We immediately see the effects of that assault as Mark tries his usual flip to avoid a back body drop but then collapses as his knee gives way underneath him. Luckily for him he falls straight into his corner and into a crucial tag to Jay. ACH 619’s around the ringpost…INTO A HEADSCISSORS TO THE FLOOR ON MARK! JAY GIVES HIM A DVD ON THE APRON! Not satisfied with that he tosses both opponents into the railings with such force that end up in the front row alongside each other. The momentum has shifted again and leaves the Briscoes in a position you suspect they’d wanted to be in all along – cutting ACH, the least experienced man in the match, off from his partner. He survives the onslaught and tags in Sydal for the standing moonsault on Jay for 2. Slice/jawbreaker combo on both Briscoes followes next, before ACH takes flight with a RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Mark storms back in with the urinage on Sydal then joins with his brother for the Splash Mountain Bomb! STANDING SUPER RANA BY SYDAL! SYDAL PRESS ON MARK…FOR 2! Matt tries to give Jay a reverse rana…BUT MARK CATCHES HIM SO THEY CAN GIVE HIM THE DOOMSDAY DEVICE! JAY DRILLER ON ACH! The Briscoes pick up the win at 20:12

Rating – **** – A great main event to round off what has been an unexpected treat of a show. What I particularly liked about this one is that none of these four necessarily went balls to the wall for very long at all – but through some smart and incisive work they kept things interesting for a full twenty minutes (and if anything could have gone even longer). The continual shift in dynamics made this constantly fun to watch. First each team attached the ‘stronger’ member of the opposition team (Jay and Sydal) meaning that the weaker member of each team had to spend more time in the ring. Then the ACH/Sydal duo tried to isolate Mark, but failed to do so sufficiently due to their inexperience as a duo when compared to the Briscoes. After that we had the Briscoes trying to do a number on ACH, but didn’t reckon on his ability to survive a beating and come back swinging. The pendulum swung back and forth until it broke down to a wild brawl for several minutes at the end – and given that Jay and Mark have done this thing countless times over the years, it was no surprise that they emerged victorious. Considering this is effectively a house show, and considering it had to come after Strong/Alberto (one of the best matches ROH has produced in the last two years) this was an overwhelming success.

Moose continues to circle the ring as all four combatants show respect to each other after a hard-fought battle. The former NFL star eventually invades the ring and mows down both Briscoes in mere seconds. Sydal eats the somersault Spear. ACH manages to fend Moose off, although the big man still has his eyes locked on Jay Briscoe as Stokely Hathaway makes a grab for the World Title belt.

Tape Rating – **** – It feels strange, but I come away from this show with almost nothing but positive things to say. We’ll pretend the House Of Truth tag didn’t suck, but from top to bottom this was one of the strongest Ring Of Honor DVD’s I’ve reviewed in a while – and the best house show for ages. Alberto El Patron and Roderick Strong produced a genuine classic whilst beating the absolute hell out of each other – and alongside that MOTYC you had a strong tag team main event and two absolutely blinding undercard battles in Elgin/Dickinson and Ciampa/Hanson vs The Kingdom. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Ring Of Honor undercard as much as this, and I heartily congratulate Delirious for booking it. I’ve criticised him long and hard over the last eighteen months, but he deserves all the credit in the world for how he put this together. He let Chris Dickinson come in and do all the crazy sh*t he could with Elgin. He brought Aeroform in – and gave them the perfect opponents in The Decade. And after watching Hanson and Tommaso Ciampa kick all kinds of ass in that crazy war with The Kingdom I’m not only pumped to see more of the Bennett/Taven team – I even can’t wait for the filler fourway title match that is headlining the 13th Anniversary Show. And even Moose had arguably his finest hour in ROH thus far. This show is well worth picking up.

Top 3 Matches
3) Tommaso Ciampa/Hanson vs Michael Bennett/Matt Taven (****)
2) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Matt Sydal/ACH (****)
1) Alberto El Patron vs Roderick Strong (****1/2)

Top 5 Winter Warriors Dearborn/Dayton Weekend Matches
5) Tommaso Ciampa/Hanson vs Michael Bennett/Matt Taven (**** – Dayton)
4) Alberto El Patron vs ACH (**** – Dearborn)
3) Jay Lethal vs Roderick Strong (**** – Dearborn)
2) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Matt Sydal/ACH (**** – Dayton)
1) Alberto El Patron vs Roderick Strong (****1/2 – Dayton)

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