The May 4th show was short on the main story (more on that later) but big on wrestling. If you're a fan of or are interested in checking out ROH-style product, this is an example of one style they work a lot. The downside is ROH sometimes relies too heavily on this type of match for my tastes, so keep that in mind if you check it out and these aren't your cup of tea. They do other things too that place more emphasize on personality and different kinds of storytelling.
"Machine Gun" Karl Anderson came in to film with the company over WrestleMania weekend in New York, and the first match on this episode is the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) standout versus "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin. The result is a solid if unspectacular match between a couple of different kinds of big man who can move.
Elgin starts off doing some of his feats of strength - notably the delayed vertical suplex - before Anderson gets a little heel-y and starts to work on Unbreakable's leg following a drop kick and spot with the barrier. The leg gets sold a little throughout the rest of the match, but not a lot. That's my one of my pet peeves with this style of ROH match; psychology and especially finishers often get sacrificed for the excitement of a false ending or just to demonstrate the fighting spirit of a wrestler.
There are a lot of exciting moves, more than a few will be familiar to Antonio Cesaro fans like Machine Gun's European uppercuts or the deadlift suplex that Unbreakable tries from the apron. A nifty series of counters come near the end. Elgin reverses out of a powerbomb to hit a corkscrew senton and Anderson goes from almost being the victim of an Elgin Bomb to land an emerald flowsion. After a small package gets two for the ROH regular, the man from New Japan ends it with an ace cutter. The two adhere to the Code of Honor by shaking hands.
There's an out-of-nowhere Women of Honor contest between MsChif and newcomer Daviene thrown in this episode. And it doesn't do female wrestling any favors. The green-haired one dominates the rookie for about a minute and then Veda Scott runs in to attack the banshee in return for her having assaulted the bespectacled interviewer for asking dumb questions after a loss a few weeks back. Prince Nana, who is on commentary, makes some sexist comments about 18 year old Daviene. If the production values didn't suck, I'd think I was watching WWE.
All that whiney preamble aside, this is an okay match. They brawl for a while at the start, and then there's a cool sequence where Davey nails O'Reilly with a tombstone, but when he follows up with a dive from the top, Kyle catches him in a triangle choke. Richards gets to the ropes and hits a suicide dive after dumping his opponent out. He sells have torqued his knee on the dive.
For the wolf, he probably really thinks he's selling it, but he forgets about it after a while. They roll and trade submission attempts. When things head to the apron, Davey remembers his knee and uses it as the reason why he can't attempt another dive to the outside. O'Reilly catches him and brainbusters him on the floor. He tries to superplex him back into the ring, but Richards locks in an armbar around the top rope. Kyle breaks the hold and rolls onto the announce table, but the former ROH champ "overcomes" his knee pain to land a double stomp that drives his opponent through the table. The tag champ makes it back in before referee Todd Sinclair's 20 count ends, but after defiantly spitting in his mentor's face, gets kicked to the head and then taps to another armbar.
The show that was released on May 11th is a broadcast of three Border Wars matches: Roderick Strong over Mike Bennett, B.J. Whitmer defeating Rhett Titus in an "I Quit" match when Steve Corino's offer to sacrifice himself to B.J. causing Titus to give up to save his leader and furthering the S.C.U.M. as a cult angle, and Jimmy Jacobs and Cliff Compton defeating Elgin and Kevin Steen (run-in replacement for an "injured" Jay Lethal).
This is the first show taped after the iPPV, and it starts with Corino crowing about how he is officially Kevin Kelly's announce partner now and how S.C.U.M. (which I believe stands for Sacrimonious Chicagoans Undermining Magi) now has an ROH world title shot in their pocket. Jay Lethal comes out to pronounce himself healthy and say that Nigel McGuiness made a mistake in letting Steen take his place at Border Wars. The former champion's loyalties can't be trusted, so Lethal will take out S.C.U.M. himself - starting with Jimmy Jacobs.
Short match packed with emotion follows. Jacobs has been on quite a roll since coming back as Corino's "sponsor" back in 2011, when the two were trying to reform Kevin Steen coming off his loss to El Generico. He takes the win here after working on Jay's injured leg, causing it to go out on him when he went for a lethal injection. The zombie princess then nailed two shiranuis to claim a victory. I love that both of these guys are back with the company and working their asses off. This is the kind of ROH-style match I watch for.
Matchmaker McGuinness speaks on the title picture. Cole was defeated at Border Wars but deserves a rematch;Elgin, Edwards and Richards all have announced shots upcoming but no specifics are in place. Jay Briscoe interrupts him to basically talk about being a fighting champ and how he's not scared of anyone in ROH. This brings out Mark Briscoe to say that Jay is getting big-headed and announce he wants a shot at his brother's belt. Nigel will consider it for Best in the World, their June iPPV. This was an okay segment, but Jay feels more like a transitional champ than ever after his gay marriage tweets, and it seems like they're hot-shotting the brother versus brother story.
Our obligatory S.C.U.M. tag match is next as Cedric Alexander & Caprice Coleman take on Compton & Titus. It's a decent enough brawl with some good spots, but I'm kind of burnt out on multi-man S.C.U.M. versus ROH matches. They run a Willis Reed angle with Caprice after a turnbuckle bump, but after his second return from ref-enforced medical attention, he takes Rhett's finisher and the heels are again victorious.
The main event is an interesting match-up between Steen and Cole. Kelly is hyping that both men lost in Toronto and that this is must win for each. I enjoyed this immensely, mostly because I'm a huge Kevin Steen mark. I'm all in for his redemption story, especially as he still seems to enjoy being a smart ass dealer of violence while returning to good guy status. There's a great bit here where he casually side-steps a dive to the floor by Cole, then grabs the smaller man and powerbombs him into three different sides of the ring.
Of course, the story just below the surface here is Mr. Wrestling versus the faction he helped found. He and Corino jaw a little while Steen has the upper hand. The story one layer beneath that story is Adam Cole slowly showing more heel-ish tendencies. He dropkicks Kevin's knee from behind while he's distracted by the King of Old School. The Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) champ works the knee for a while as both men display a strong combination of strikes and power moves.
Cole reverses a package piledriver into a sharpshooter in a cool spot that further damages the knee of the big man. It looks like Kev might pull out the win following a superkick and F5, but Compton comes down to the ring and jumps on the apron. Steen chases him off and then locks in a sharpshooter of his own (the Canadian had to show the Floridian how it's done, eh). Compton is back up, though, and when wrestling's worst nightmare goes after him, Jacobs slips into the ring and hits him with a chain-wrapped fist from behind. Adam is okay with that, and takes the opportunity to collect a win.
There you have it. I'd say that only the last show is really worth seeking out (unless you haven't seen Border Wars and then, hey, the 5/11 edition is a good way to catch a good 45 minutes of it for free), but I remain bullish on the promotion.
Not everything they do hits, but they're emphasizing my favorite storylines and workers. The slow turns for Steen and Cole are enough to keep me interested; showcasing quality veterans like Lethal and Elgin is just icing on the cake.
These shows don't even do too much with some of the exciting younger guys that they have working the tag division like ACH and Tadarius Thomas, or the man we all can't wait to boo, Matt Hardy.
Enough from me - let's hear from you. Who's watching, and what are you digging right now from Ring of Honor? Anyone with early predictions for Best in the World and the Baltimore TV Tapings in June?
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