A Great Alternative: ROH 5-23-15


Ring of Honor has been around for  thirteen years and I am horribly ashamed I’ve only gotten into it recently. I’m going to keep watching their show and recapping it as it’s something that every fan of professional wrestling should get behind. One of the best things about this show is you can watch it right here. I’m probably going to gush… be warned…


Welcome back to the column that doesn’t stop. Unless of course my wife gives birth to a giant son and then I’m crippled with bronchitis. What kind of an idiot describes bronchitis as crippling? The same kind who broke his leg by dancing on a water fountain at age twelve. I’ve gotten way off course but for the dozens and dozens of readers I apologize for not making the last couple of weeks.

We are live (nope) from Minnesota, the home of Jesse Ventura, Kirby Puckett and adult onset diabetes (yup) for another installment of ROAD RAGE!!!! This time with less Edge dressed up like Ric Flair and more brutality like the tag match from last week. What a war. The fans are pumped and there’s a lovely curtain blocking what is presumably a graffiti laden wall. LET LOCAL ARTISTS CREATE!

Match #1 – Michael Elgin Vs. Caprice Coleman

Of course Elgin is dressed as a monk, which must make him feel strange as he passes a fan in a “Eat, Sleep, Brazzers, Repeat” shirt. And before you try and get sanctimonious with me and pretend you don’t get the message just stop and think about the chaffed life this man is living. Caprice Coleman makes his way down to the ring to the same music Jesus Christ would probably chose if he were returning to send everyone to Hell. Elgin looks trimmer. He’s a guy I’ve ragged on in the past but I’ve been digging his work lately, on top of which I just learned his real name and have newfound respect for the man. Steve Corino goes on a bit of a rant about how “mean” Michael Elgin is the best Michael Elgin. I’m also a fan of confused Michael Elgin as well as cuckolded Michael Elgin. This immediately makes me think of how underused the adjective “mean” is in wrestling. That’s exactly how I’d describe how HHH looked in 2000. Mean. That’s what made him work. That was the only time I’ve ever liked him. This will be the only time I’ll ever say that.

Can't you just pretend I didn't destroy wrestling?
Can’t you just pretend I didn’t destroy wrestling?

They battle a bit back and forth and Corino goes into Coleman’s boxing history as he hits a series of chops. They fall to the floor and I’m immediately concerned about their safety as there is the thinnest strip of mats I’ve ever seen at a wresting event. Get some damn mats ROH. Even Bill Watts is worried Caprice Coleman is going to hurt himself. They fight back into the ring and Coleman hits a sweet springboard leg lariat like I tried to hit back in the day when my buddies and I rented a ring and got some local wrestlers to train us. Spoiler alert, Coleman’s was much better and his evening didn’t end with him being hopped in the chest by a large man named Marc “The Grizzly.”

This guy chopped the shit out of my chest.
This guy chopped the shit out of my chest.

Coleman follows up by leaping to a prone Elgin and hurricanranaing (that’s a word right) him from the top rope. This is the best I’ve seen Coleman since I’ve started watching and I’m no longer enraged that he had all the insight during the top prospect tournament. Coleman goes for a northern lights suplex but Elgin blocks with sheer force and mass. I love Elgin’s power counters. Every match he takes something simple and finds a way to turn it into a feat of strength. Elgin smashes Coleman with some un-worked forearms then rolls him around only to stomp on his back. A guy in the front row hold up his “2” sign just so we’re clear about what just happened. It would be awesome to be sitting behind him the whole night. Almost as awesome as sitting behind the chronic masturbator.

Caprice makes his comeback and kicks Elgin to the floor before hitting a wonderful moonsault off the ropes. Elgin back in and Coleman hits the “Sky Splitter.” Which if you haven’t seen it looks exactly like Zak Ryder’s “Rough Ryder,” from the top rope except it looks like it hurts and could potentially lead to Coleman winning a match this century. The action continues as they fight their way into a strike sequence which ends with Coleman being decapitated with a clothesline. A very quick buckle bomb followed by a quicker sit down twirling power bomb from Elgin give him the win over a game Coleman. I love Elgin’s urgency on the finish. It really gives it the feel of a real fight when one guy sees he has an opening and rushes to hit his big moves before the other can recover. Really good match to start the show tonight. Elgin mouths “I’m really good, ” to the crowd and each and every week I’m more inclined to agree. I just wish his character was a little more defined. Like who is Michael Elgin? What is Michael Elgin? Where is… Ok I’ll stop, but seriously I would like to think of him as more than a strong man in a wrinkled rope.

I like me. My customers like me. My wife likes me. Cause I'm the real article what you see is what you get...
I like me. My customers like me. My wife likes me. Cause I’m the real article what you see is what you get…

We get a recap of World War 3 last week where The Briscoes fought War Machine. Track down this match as it’s a fantastic brawl which would actually be a main event in any building in the country.

Backstage with Truth Martini and Jay Lethal. Lethal is sporting a plaid shirt which bring me back to the good old days of high school and being sad to Nirvana. Truth is questioning O’Reilly’s integrity for claiming that he made Lethal tap out. ” Real eyes realize real lies,” is exactly the kind of poetic excellence you expect when you tune in to watch grown men pretend to beat each other up. According to Truth and Lethal it was basically three on one since Lord Voldemort was his partner. I do like that their calling back to a match that basically happened on a glorified house show. It really gives you the impression that every match matters, which can only lead to everyone being more invested in the product. Jay Lethal closes out by stating that Kyle O’Reilly is a great tag team wrestler, but tonight it’s going to be different when it’s one on one. He then declares himself to be the ROH champion which simultaneously builds up this match but also keeps the heat on the program between him and he that shall not be named.

Reach for the sky boy!
Reach for the sky boy!

Back from break and Kyle O’Reilly answers back stage. His goal since day one has been to be ROH TV champion and he’s an arm assassin who will make Lethal tap out. Again. It’s a solid and well delivered promo but the sound of his voice isn’t doing him any favors here.

There’s half an hour left in the show and we have one match left. I like where this is headed.

Match #2 – Jay Lethal Vs. Kyle O’Reilly

Jay Lethal’s entrance is boss. It helps elevate the entire match by giving us the impression that Lethal’s the most important wrestler in the world. The announcers make a point to…point out that Lethal has modified his belt so that it no longer says TV champion just ROH champion. Scarlett Bordeaux gives us the intros to really hammer home that this is a big time match. She’s fine but she can never replace the original Scarlett that won so many of our hearts back in the 80’s. She was tough but kind, stern and yet sensual. Sure the TV show made it all about her and Duke, but we REAL FANS (what an obnoxious term) knew that her heart belonged to the silent and mysterious Snake Eyes. Bordeaux is good but the Era of Scarlett was years ago honey.

The Era is what I say it is!!!
The Era is what I say it is!!!

Corino right out of the gate calls this one an instant classic, and while I’m with him, I’m trying not to set the bar too high for my expectations. The story of the match is that O’Reilly is trying everything to get a hold of Lethal’s arm seeing as he’s tapped him out with an arm bar before. I love when a match plays off the history of the competitors and it’s only helped when there’s a synergy between the announcers and the wrestlers. There’s one guy in the crowd chanting “Black Machismo” and he can go ahead and suck a bag of dicks.

Right away O’Reilly goes for ARMageddon and Lethal slides to the outside. There’s some stalling as Steve Corino lauds the virtues of Jay Lethal. This upsets Kevin Kelly who deems Corino to be a hypocrite based on things he had previously said about Jay Lethal and his family. All is forgiven though according to Corino and Mr. Lethal (legal name) raise a heck of a young man. Also did Steve Corino bang his mom? So many questions that will no doubt label me as a pervert simply because I saw the value in taking money to have sex with JYD’s mother.

Pimpin' ain't easy.
Pimpin’ ain’t easy.

Kyle wrenches in a headlock on Lethal and this becomes the story of the next five minutes of the match. Lethal just can’t get out of the headlock but it’s not boring in any way as it’s clear O’Reilly is trying to tap him out with the simplest of moves. Some great counter wrestling prompts Corino to state that this is the kind of Bockwinkle/Robinson style match that the people of Minnesota are used to. I’m not sure Bockwinkle ever stiffed the shit out of anyone with knees that would make Chong Li whimper like a child, but in fairness I haven’t seen all his matches.

Hey! Be careful!
Hey! Be careful!

There’s so much selling and psychology going into getting in and out of these headlocks. It’s such a great contrast to the Kevin Owens/Finn Balor match from a few months ago where they got into a headlock the same way eleven times and then proceed to just rest there instead of making it look like an athletic contest. On top of the fantastic stuff the guys are doing Steve Corino is breaking the move down and pointing out that the bicep is on the jaw and the temple and that the move is designed to wear him down instead of simply acting as a transition move. That’s the synergy I was talking about before.

O’Reilly is finally about to get the ARMageddon on Lethal but Jay fights to stay out of the hold. I love shit like that. I love it when the fight is to not get trapped in the hold as opposed to getting in the hold and the fight being about getting to the ropes. There’s such a reliance on rope breaks for submission in WWE that they’ve almost rendered the submission obsolete as it’s clear you can be in it forever as long as you get to the ropes. As I’m going on about submissions Jay Lethal busts out some sort of cloverleaf/surfboard I’ve never seen before.

Kyle O’Reilly is now trying everything in his power to break the arm and quite frankly, as a man who’s watched pro wrestling since 1987, I’m unsure about how the arm isn’t actually broken. O’Reilly gets ARMageddon in the ropes which is countered with the hardcover to the back of Truth Martini. Now Jay Lethal is trying to do everything to put this guy away. He knows he’s in trouble, he knows his arm is done and he has to end the match…now.

We come back from break and they’re now killing each other with strikes that are making Nick Bockwinkle wince on his couch. O’Reilly’s repeat double under hook suplexes are a marvel as is the sell job of Lethal as he takes a quick stiff knee to the face. He literally just slowly crumples to the ground as the announcers speculate if he’s unconscious. Kyle locks in a guillotine choke which is COUNTERED INTO THE LETHAL COMBINATION. Awesome. Lethal hits the “Hail to the King,” elbow drop all while selling the destroyed arm. As much as a hated that guy for yelling “Black Machismo,” I think it’s cool that Lethal keeps a spot or two from that part of his career. Then they suplex each other out of the ring. Like a straight suplex. Remember there’s no mats? Remember Bill Watts?

I'm also NOT racist!
I’m also NOT racist!

O’Reilly does a great count out sequence and now both guys are clearly exhausted. We get the slow boo/yay punches which works because it’s totally earned as both guys have killed each other up to this point. O’Reilly comes alive though and destroys Lethal with “Ax and Smash,” (great name) before getting super kicked. All is well tough as he comes right back with a “Nigel” clothesline to obliterate the champ. ARMageddon is finally locked on Lethal, but he escapes to the ropes. Contrary to what I wrote earlier, I like the spot here because he wasn’t in the hold for long and the whole match has been about O’Reilly locking on that move.

The announcers are tired, which totally fits the mood of the match. Both guys are doing the pre-fatality Mortal Kombat selling but it works for me here as we’ve seen a war. Lethal tries for the Lethal injection but O’Reilly holds on twice. Lethal with a stiff elbow and now he’s going to hit it, he jumps at O’Reilly…COUNTERED INTO ARMAGEDDON! LOCKED IN THE CENTER OF THE RING. WHAT AN AWESOME COUNTER! O’REILLY LOCKS THE LEG IN TO. THERE’S NO WAY OUT FOR LETHAL!!! The bell rings at the thirty minute mark saving Lethal’s title. Oh man that ending sequence was sweet. Maybe the most satisfying thirty minute draw I’ve ever seen.

That's what she said.
That’s what she said.

The crowd wants five more minutes. Lethal has to agree though. Lethal gets in the mic and hesitates, to which the crowd chants, “MAN UP!” Perfect. Just perfect Minnesota. Lethal is pissed and says he was going to give them five more minutes until they flaunted that chant at him. He leaves. Fantastic heel work here, as Lethal had no way of knowing what they were going to chant and rolled with the crowd perfectly.

Lethal leaves and Jay Briscoe is out. Lethal walks past him as though he doesn’t exist. In fairness, in his mind he doesn’t. Briscoe on the mic. He may be tapped up but he tells Lethal to “Keep his ass in the back and let a real fighting champion show you how it’s done.” He asks the crowd if they want to see another five minutes. They do so he offers O’Reilly a shot at the real ROH title since they’ve both been through wars and Kyle’s earned it. They shake. It’s on! But before they can get started Lethal comes back and kills them both with the belt. I guess he does exist to him after all. We close with Lethal standing over a beaten Jay Briscoe.

What a main event! Everyone came out of that looking awesome. O’Reilly looked like a world beater and Lethal still looked strong even in the draw. The ending sequence into the time limit followed by Jay Briscoe coming out to show up his would be conqueror are what wrestling is all about. I love the show this week. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go take care of an actual wasp’s nest.

Best Match: Jay Lethal Vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Worst Match: Rusev vs. Sheamus
Best Promo/Skit: Jay Briscoe “Mans Up.”
Worst Promo/Skit: Kane admits to Killing Katie Vick.
MVP: Jay Lethal, Kyle O’Reilly and Jay Briscoe

What Worked Really Well

– Both matches were great, but the main event was special.

– Jay Briscoe’s one upsmanship was fantastic.

– I saw a bunch of moves and sequences I’ve never seen before.

– The commentary, as usual, works wonderfully with the wrestlers and enhances every minute of television.

What Sort Of Works

– I wish Elgin’s character was more clear. Who is this guy? What does he want? Where does he…

What Didn’t Work

– Yesterday I was on the official ROH website and I saw they have a rule section, which I thought was really cool. They said that TV title matches have a 15 minute time limit. This one went 30. Who am I kidding there were no negatives here.

So Why Should I Watch This Instead Of Raw?

Because if you watch this show you won’t want to go back to the sanitized “entertainment” that is WWE. If you do there’s no humanity in you.

Like me.
Like me.

Thanks for reading! See ya next week!