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ROH TV recap & reactions (Mar. 2, 2023): A new era begins

It is a new era for Ring of Honor with the debut of ROH TV on Honor Club with Tony Khan at the helm.

The mystery was what type of show to expect. I’d put this episode on a level high above Dark and slightly below Rampage. The majority of matches were competitive, unlike with Dark. There is still the issue of predictable winners, however, I’ll give it a pass this week since it was the first show. Even though three of the bouts scheduled for next week have clear favorites, I wouldn’t be shocked if the underdog wins. That provides a stronger element of excitement than Dark. ROH TV also features more promos to set the table and introduce new stars. The wrestling quality is on par with Rampage. The star power is a notch below, which is to be expected. The ROH atmosphere is nowhere close to the raucous live crowds of AEW. That’s not a knock on the ROH fans in attendance. Studio wrestling has a different sound than a rocking arena. All in all, this episode of ROH TV was a very watchable product that was easy to jump in to.

In the main event, Claudio Castagnoli defended the ROH World Championship against AR Fox. It was the best bout of the evening, which is no surprise given the talent involved. Both men were given promo time to hype the bout. Claudio spoke about pressure making diamonds. He lives for these moments.

Fox recalled trying out for ROH ten year ago and never being invited back. That motivated him to bust ass to be the best he could be. Now, he’s in the main event for the new era of ROH TV.

The match went for about 15 minutes. Claudio did damage early working the left knee of the high-flyer. The coolest spot was the giant swing from Claudio. It wasn’t just the swing. It was the setup that cooked. Claudio faked a punch. Fox took the bait to duck backwards and kick his feet up. Claudio was ready and waiting to snatch Fox’s legs and take him for a ride.

Fox’s best chance at victory came on a 450 splash. Claudio kicked out on the cover. Both men exchanged throwing blows in the center of the ring. Claudio had the upper hand delivering with more power. Fox countered a European uppercut into a backslide. Claudio kicked out. Fox bounced up for a springboard attack. Claudio blasted him out of the air with a huge uppercut to win.

Very fun bout. Both wrestlers showcased their style with excellence. Claudio worked a little more on the mat than usual. That fits with the ROH Pure rhythm. Fox’s creative acrobatics won the crowd over. The match started with dueling chants from a few fans. By the end, the entire venue was chanting for Fox. They didn’t turn on Claudio. It was just a show of support in favor of Fox.

Saving the biggest surprise to close the show, Eddie Kingston crashed the scene to challenge Claudio for the ROH World Championship.

Kingston declared his independent contractor status after quitting AEW. He promised Jon Moxley not to fight with Claudio in AEW. It’s fair game now in ROH. Claudio laughed off the loudmouth and exited to the back. He did make sure to rub his champion status in Kingston’s face by putting the belt around his waist.

I have my criticisms of Kingston as world champion material, but that segment was hot. The callback to past tensions was smart attention to detail. AEW does that really well, if you are in the loop to catch it. I’m not always, however, this one was easy for me to recall. I loved Claudio playing mind games on the Mad King. Kingston doesn’t deserve squat. Claudio is not one to back down, so it will be amusing to watch him press Kingston’s buttons before accepting the fight without fear. It is going to be a slobberknocker.

Let’s blitz through the rest of the show.

Mark Briscoe defeated Slim J. Mark Sterling and Ari Daivari were ringside causing persistent distractions. Briscoe was bloodied, but he rallied for a Spicolli driver and Jay Driller double underhook piledriver to win.

It was fitting for Briscoe to open the new era as an ROH original and win with the tribute finisher for brother Jay Briscoe.

Tony Deppen to challenge for ROH TV title. Deppen pulled out a piece of paper to read a prepared statement. The former TV champion is confident in dethroning Joe next week. He has done his scouting and will take full advantage of Joe’s weak points. Deppen mentioned his superior technique on the STF and the chickenwing.

The paper bit was odd. That was never a gimmick for Deppen in his past with ROH. It isn’t to cover for lack of promos skills. Deppen can talk just fine flashing an attitude that fits his personality. We’ll see if this develops into something.

The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett) defeated The Infantry (Shawn Dean & Carlie Bravo). Maria Kanellis was ringside. Taven proved pivotal in victory. As the Infantry aimed for a double team to finish, Taven pulled Dean out of the ring to smash into the ring steps. When Bravo was on the turnbuckles, Taven walloped him with an enzuigiri. The Kingdom closed with the Proton Pack finisher.

The one thing the Kingdom excels at most is ring awareness. Taven and Bennett have a knack for the little things that can shift momentum. That’s when they are booked to win. When booked to lose, they usually kick each other or Maria by accident. I like the pairing of Dean and Bravo as a tag team with their military backgrounds. They had good intent on teamwork moves, but they aren’t clicking just yet in cohesive movement. More time together should build stronger chemistry in the ring.

NJPW World Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. retained against Blake Christian. A pre-match promo package hyped the bout. Christian is All Heart that stands for seizing opportunity and making moments. Sabre discussed the 15-minute TV time limit. He advised that Christian use his time wisely against the best technical wrestler in the world.

Sabre controlled the action with wicked submissions throughout. Christian rallied with high-flying. Sabre had one too many tricks in his bag to catch Christian for a triangle choke to win.

Great match. This is on the list to seek out. When the term ‘technical wrestling’ is used, many think of plodding rest holds. That wasn’t the case with Sabre on this evening. He used a variety of creative counters and transitions to work his game. There was one submission in particular that looked cool as heck. Sabre tied Christian into a pretzel and twisted the man to stretch with torture. Also of note, Sabre called out Bryan Danielson. He’s been chasing that match, and seeds continue to be planted.

Christian did his fair share to bring excitement. The clash in styles was one reason why the match was so interesting. One trait bothered me about Christian. He would often stop and pose after a series of moves. It made him look stupid, especially when it allowed Sabre time to recover and be ready for a counter on the next move.

With emphasis put on the 15-minute time limit, I think ROH should have put a timer on screen. Bobby Cruise would announce every five minutes passing and then each individual minute under the five-minute mark. That helps for the live crowd. A timer would help increase drama for the viewers at home.

Christoper Daniels defeated Rohit Raju. Daniels spoke about how ROH emerged as a new promotion 21 years ago to invigorate the fanbase. It is a new era in 2023. Despite the changes, two things remain the same. The competition is still the toughest in the land, and Daniels is still in the thick of it. If you stand in his way, say your prayers.

Jora Johl was ringside butting in with physical interference. Rohit blasted a high knee, but he missed on the flying double stomp finisher. Daniels came back with a slam and the Best Moonsault Ever to win.

Daniels should have value as the resident veteran. He can pop the crowd playing the hits, and wins over him can help propel new stars.

Aussie Open. Former ROH tag champs Rhett Titus & Tracy Williams plan to return to their mission of restoring honor in Ring of Honor. Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher challenged them to a bout next week.

This is a good example of the benefit of quick promos. It introduced (for those unaware) and reintroduced (for those already aware) Titus and Williams as ROH players. The simple set up for the match gives it a little juice rather than coming in cold.

Konosuke Takeshita defeated Josh Woods. Prior to the bout, Sterling issued an offer. he viewed this match as beneath Woods, so he proposed that they cancel the match, split the winner’s purse 55/45 in favor of Woods, and call it a day. Ari Daivari was going to throw in an extra $10,000 for Takeshita’s troubles. Sterling handed over a contract to seal the deal. Takeshita ripped up the paperwork. Match on!

Sterling was ringside. Takeshita and Woods increased in intensity throughout the bout. The finish was a dandy. After exchanging suplexes, both men rose for simultaneous discus forearm strikes. Bang! Both hit the mark and were down on the mat. Takeshita grabbed a waistlock. Woods rolled through for a roll-up. Takeshita escaped to execute a wheelbarrow bridging German suplex for victory.

Along with the matches from Claudio and Sabre, this one is in the top three list to watch. Takeshita is super over in popularity. My rough estimate is that he had the second loudest crowd response behind Eddie Kingston. This didn’t seem like a crowd made up of 100% hardcore fans, and most seemed to be riding the Takeshita train.

The Embassy defeated Joe Keys, Rex Lawless, & LSG. Prince Nana was ringside. The ROH six-man champions dismantled the competition. Brian Cage, Kaun, and Toa Liona were ferocious. The Embassy finished LSG in a clothesline sandwich by Kaun and Liona then tossed him into the air for a powerbomb by Cage.

Damn. That is how to execute a squash match. The Embassy was an imposing force striking fear in the heart of their opponents. They showcased cool power moves and looked like badasses doing it.

Ari Daivari defeated Metalik. The luchador competed as Gran Metalik in WWE and Mascara Dorada elsewhere in the world. Sterling and Slim J were ringside. Metalik was in control after a savate kick. Sterling distracted the referee. Slim entered the ring to hold Metalik for a clothesline. Metalik escaped, and Daivari collided into Slim. Metalik scored a roll-up. It was past the count of five before the referee turned around and started an official count. Daivari kicked out. Metalik made the mistake of arguing with the referee. Daivari grabbed Metalik from behind for a hammerlock ripcord lariat to win.

This was the one result on the card that was unexpected. I figured Metalik would win due to his higher profile. He was protected in defeat with so much screwery afoot. Commentary explained that Daivari paid ROH staff not to allow an official entrance on screen for his opponent. That’s an amusing touch to demonstrate his rich jerk behavior.

Madison Rayne & Skye Blue defeated the Renegades. Commentary acknowledged the Renegade Twins winning the NWA women’s tag titles. (The Renegades have lost the belts since then.) Blue landed a flying crossbody onto Charlette. Robyn kicked Blue to break the pinfall. Rayne speared Robyn to tumble out of the ring. Blue hit a Skyfall slam on Charlette to secure victory.

My initial reaction is that Blue’s finisher did not look good. I did not watch a replay, since there is no pause button on the live feed. The Renegades showed spunky personality when criticizing the referee for lack of rule enforcement when not in their favor.

Timothy Thatcher challenges Wheeler Yuta. The ROH Pure champion discussed how he shouldn’t be viewed as a junior member of the Blackpool Combat Club. It is no accident that he holds a title. He was forged in combat at the BCC dojo. Yuta turned his attention to offering an open challenge. Thatcher stepped out on stage. He’s not a big fan of talking. He is a big fan of fighting. The match was made for next week.

Simple scene to build anticipation. Thatcher fits in perfect with the Pure rules.

Willow Nightingale defeated Lady Frost. Frost landed a high arching moonsault finisher, but Willow kicked out. Frost charged into the corner. Willow caught her to counter for a gutwrench powerbomb to win.

Afterward, Willow called out Athena for a shot at the ROH Women’s World Championship. Athena was dismissive but still accepted for next week.

Willow’s star appeal was on full display with her energetic personality. The charisma radiated in her wrestling style.

Share your thoughts on the ROH TV episode on Honor Club. Who were the standout performers?

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