We kick off this week’s episode with our opening animation and then head inside the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia, the birthplace of ROH, for the 12th Anniversary show. Kevin Kelly welcomes us in and as Michael Elgin hits the ring, he notes that his scheduled opponent, Matt Hardy, was unable to make the show due to travel woes. But regardless, Elgin has something to say and heads out anyway. Over the past week, he has been looking forward to two things: winning the World title and sending Matt Hardy home on a stretcher or in a body bag. The fans rev up a “Hardy Sucks” chant as Elgin breaks the news that Hardy didn’t make the show. He puts over the company and its birthday, praising them for giving guys chances to become stars. So, tonight he wants to give someone new an opportunity to prove he belongs and then calls out Raymond Rowe. Good cover for Hardy missing the show, and this match will be a much bigger benefit for the company anyway.
Michael Elgin vs. Raymond Rowe
Rowe marches down to ringside and I believe this should be a Place to Be Certified Hossfest. Rowe wastes no time, mowing through Elgin off the bell, but Elgin fights back and spikes Rowe to the mat with a spinebuster. He follows that with an attempt at the delayed suplex, but Rowe fights out of it after ten seconds, floating back and trying for his own suplex, but Elgin fights that off. Instead, Elgin hoists Rowe back and goes right into the delayed suplex again, even deadlifting him back up after Rowe started to slip down. He holds it for nearly a minute before crashing down and sending us to break. Hache mache, Elgin is a beast.
When we return, Rowe has a waistlock hooked in, but Elgin wriggles free and after a pair of reversals, Elgin cracks Rowe with an enziguri. He deadlifts Rowe up but ends up running into a t-bone suplex. Elgin no sells that and hits one of his own that rattles Rowe a bit. Both men are weary and start hammering each other with simultaneous stiff clotheslines. Elgin then drills two hard-hitting lariats and gets a near fall. Corino calls out Elgin for not hooking the leg, which could ended this one. Rowe avoids a powerbomb and hits an overhead belly-to-belly, but Elgin bails to the floor. Rowe tries a tope, but Elgin dodges him and he crashes hard to the floor. Elgin makes him pay with a running powerbomb into the guardrail! That was bananas foster! Back inside, he hits another powerbomb to finish Rowe off. Nice showing for Rowe and this every bit the Hoss Sundae I was hoping for. Good stuff.
As Elgin celebrates, Adam Cole slides in the ring and tries to bash him with the title, but Rowe stops him. Elgin turns around and decks Cole before loading him for the powerbomb. Before he can snap it off, Michael Bennett hits the ring and drops both Rowe and Elgin with low blows. Cole and Bennett lay the wood down until Jay Briscoe comes in and makes the save. Cole bails as Briscoe peppers Bennett with a bunch of right hands before chucking him out to the floor.
After a commercial, Briscoe is still in the ring and is trashing Bennett. Nigel McGuinness is also at ringside and Briscoe says it is time for him to defend his title against Bennett, as he doesn’t want to wait until later for their scheduled match.
Jay Briscoe (c) vs. Michael Bennett – “Real” ROH World Title
As the bell sounds, Bennett yanks Briscoe to the floor where the two men battle. Kevin tells us that because this match got pushed up the card, the TV title war between Hanson and Tommaso Ciampa will now air next week. Boo. Maria is also absent. Double boo. Corino and KK debate what is up with Bennett and Cole as of late. Briscoe has the upper hand, punishing Bennett all around ringside. As the fight swings over to the entrance way, Maria finally shows up, so we are thankful for that. And by we, I mean me. Bennett has wrested control away and tries for a suplex, but Briscoe blocks it and hits one of his own, snapped Bennett up and over onto the entrance grating. They finally end up back inside the ring and Maria joins in on commentary as Briscoe chops away. Maria denies any knowledge of why Bennett helped Cole but voices her admiration for the champion. Cole stomps away as Maria talks about how sometimes strong, powerful people just come together. Sounds like a good deal to me. Bennett finally turns the tide and slugs away in the corner. He slams Briscoe down but his control is brief as he crashes into the corner when Briscoe avoids his charge. Corino name drops Reggie Parks and threatens to make his own title belt as well. Briscoe lays in a headbutt but Bennett keeps trying to hammer his way back into the match, finally doing so with a spinebuster. Bennett picks up a near fall and we get to look at Maria from behind just as we go to break.
When we return, both men are back up and trading blows again, capped with a Bennett superkick but followed by a Briscoe forearm smash and neckbreaker for two. Corino calls Briscoe a “sad, unstable man” which is fantastic. Briscoe hoists Bennett on his shoulders and slams him hard to the mat. He heads up top, but Bennett pops up and slugs him with a right hand. Bennett follows him up but eats a series of headbutts that send him back to the mat. Briscoe regroups and flies off the top with a big frog splash for a close near fall. Bennett elbows out of a DVD attempt and slams Briscoe down with a side effect for two. Corino chastises the fans for the way they treat Bennett. KK reminds us that Bennett can no longer use the piledriver after he lost his match with Kevin Steen at Final Battle. Briscoe hits a thrust kick and falcon arrow for a near fall. As Briscoe loads up the Jay Driller, Cole pops up on the apron and runs a distraction, allowing Bennett to grab a near fall with a low blow. Now Maria and Cole are arguing with the referee, which allows Briscoe to repay the favor with a low blow of his own, followed by the Jay Driller for the win. That was my favorite Bennett match in forever. I loved the back and forth flow with very little heat segment and lots of heavy bombs tossed around. I think this union with Cole may be the best move for Bennett. Plus Maria. Yes.
AJ Styles vs. Jay Lethal
Back from commercial and it is main event time, as Jay Lethal hits the ring to a loud ovation. AJ Styles is out next and this should be a lot of fun. Nigel has stepped in for Corino on commentary, wanting an up close look of this match he was most proud to sign. AJ gets a streamer bath as the anticipation builds, although the crowd seems a little bit split prior to a loud “AJ Styles” chant firing up. We get an early test of strength as things start off slow, with some feeling out and clean breaks. They follow by trading side headlocks and working some more counter holds as KK talks about the battle for leverage. He then has a tough time with a football analogy, mentioning that “some quarterbacks like it better when they can feel balls in their hand”. Or maybe that is what he meant. He is an odd duck. Lethal ends up on the floor but is able to duck an AJ Asai moonsualt. AJ lands on his feet but eats a Lethal suicide dive with a great sell. As both men recover, we take a break.
After break, both men have returned to the ring, with Lethal in control, picking up a near fall with a seated dropkick. Lethal turns AJ over into a leg submission and then raises him into a modified surfboard. AJ ends up on the apron and the two battle over a suplex that ends with AJ hoisting Lethal onto the apron as well and then snapping Lethal to the frame of the ring with a brainbuster. That was nasty. AJ sends Lethal flying into the guardrail and then ships him back into the ring where he launches Lethal into the corner with a snap suplex for a near fall. Lethal starts a comeback but is cracked in the face by a perfect dropkick from AJ. The fans bust out a dueling chant as AJ hooks in an Indian Deathlock. AJ does so many little things so well, right down to quickly wrenching in a hold for an extra second with additional force before he has to break. AJ traps Lethal in a rear chinlock, but Jay quickly fights to his feet and elbows out of the hold. They start alternating right hands and chops capped by the Lethal Combination. He follows with a pop up neckbreaker for a near fall and then drives AJ into the corner before propping him on the top rope. Lethal heads up as well, but AJ slips down to the mat and yanks Lethal hard to the mat. AJ goes to the apron and then flies in with a forearm smash. Lethal catches AJ with a superkick, but AJ fights back and turns Lethal inside out with a clothesline. He goes for the Styles Clash, but Lethal battles out of it and comes flying out of the corner with a leg lariat. Both are slow to get up and when they do they trade-off on waistlocks until AJ hits a Pele Kick to shake up Lethal, who is still wobbling from that big clothesline earlier. Lethal blocks another clothesline and hits an inverted suplex before heading up top and flying off with his top rope elbow drop. AJ blocks the Lethal Injection, turns it into a powerbomb, followed by the Styles Clash for the win. That was very good, as you would expect. Nothing out of this world, but still very well done and matched the expected hype. I really hope AJ sticks around and gets into some storylines instead of just wrestling various “dream matches”.
Good mix of action this week, with match styles across the board. It is great seeing AJ Styles back and also good to see the new union of Cole, Bennett and Maria come to fruition. Next week we are back in Philly, so until then, take care and respect the code. And remember to listen to the Kevin Kelly Show, as episode four debuts this Wednesday evening, exclusively at Place to Be Nation!