Instant Reaction: Ring of Honor Best in the World 2013
June 22, 2013
Du Burns Arena – Baltimore, MD
Commentators: Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino
Match #1: BJ Whitmer def. Mike Bennett (with Maria Kanelis and “Brutal” Bob Evans) via exploder suplex
A nice, solid 10 minute-ish opener. I say “10 minute-ish” because the stream was jumpy and I have no idea how long the match actually went. More on that issue later. Anyhow, this match was more of the storyline-advancing variety than anything else. The action was good, crisp, and back-and-forth – your basic ROH match. The crowd seems to be pretty into things and the arena looks clean and great. It’s always strange how much nicer they make their show look on iPPV than they do on their national TV show. The closest thing to a noteworthy happening in this match was Maria again demonstrating the control she has over Bennett by getting him to (apparently) ditch his long-time second, Bob Evans, after the match.
Match #2: American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards) def. Adrenaline RUSH (TaDarius Thomas & ACH) via pin
Going into the show, this was a match that looked fun on paper, and for the most part these teams delivered. A fast pace from the get-go, with the Wolves generally having the upper hand. For a guy that is listed at 5′ 9”, Richards always does a good job of coming across as believable when he’s in control of the match. On the other hand, there is TaDarius Thomas. His capoeira-based offense is the polar opposite of Richards’, in that it virtually never looks credible or realistic, and the crowd doesn’t buy it. The company seems to be very high on Thomas, but at this point the only thing he is doing is holding down the immensely talented ACH, who supplied my favorite spot of the match when he hit his outside-in Ace Crusher. The finish of the match came as Richards blocked an ACH 450 with his knees and rolled him up for the pin. The established Wolves showed the inexperienced tag team their respect after a hard-fought match.
Match #3: Adam Cole def. Roderick Strong via count-out
While the match ended in a count-out, it made sense to do so. This was one of the best matches of the show, with great action from start to finish, as well as advancing the story of Adam Cole’s transformation into the prick heel role that he has excelled in with PWG. Corino did great work planting the seeds on commentary, calling Cole “the future of wrestling”, “gorgeous”, a “young veteran” and a “thinking man’s wrestler”. At the same time, Kevin Kelly referred to Strong as “Mr. ROH”. Both wrestlers did limb work, with Roddy working on Cole’s injured and taped left arm (an injury suffered in the last meeting between the two in San Antonio on 6/1), while Cole did his standard leg work to set up his Figure 4 leg-lock, which he locked on at one point until Strong broke the hold by getting to the ropes. With both men on the ring apron, Cole super-kicked Strong through a ringside table. This set up the finish, as Cole teased helping Strong up and back into the ring before shoving him back down onto the table and rolling back into the ring with a dickhead grin on his face as referee Brian Gorie’s count reached 20. A really excellent match in pretty much every way. Here’s hoping Cole completes a full turn and keeps up the great run he has been on for the past 12 months. Post-match, Corino followed Cole to back to apparently continue his courting of Cole to join S.C.U.M. He would not return as the color commentator for the rest of the show.
Match #4: Michael Elgin def. Tommaso Ciampa via lariat
R.D. Evans came out to join Kelly on commentary for this match, as his man Q.T. Marshall has had run-ins with both Elgin and Ciampa on TV in the run-up to Best in the World. Ciampa’s knock-off Tazz ring entrance is pretty great, until his actual music hits. This is my pick for match of the night, as it was just the kind of knock-down, drag-out, power-move heavy brawl that Elgin is so good at. Elgin did the bulk of the heavy lifting here, but Ciampa had what was easily the best match of his career. Considering he is coming off reconstructive knee surgery only nine months ago, he was extremely impressive. The match featured all of Elgin’s signature spots, some with twists (a buckle bomb into the barricade, for one). Both men hit stalling suplexes, with Elgin’s timed at 0:42 according to my stopwatch. The crazy finishing sequence started after Ciampa hit Project Ciampa on Elgin, who got his foot on the ropes. Elgin then hit a dead-lift buckle bomb inside the ring, followed by his spinning Elgin Bomb. Ciampa kicked out and slapped a triangle choke on Elgin, who countered with another power bomb as Ciampa refused to break the choke. Elgin hit yet another buckle bomb that Ciampa kicked out of before hitting Elgin with the shining wizard and going for the cover. Elgin kicked out at 1. With both men standing, Elgin unleashed his heavy strikes: a lariat, spinning back fists, and a spinning back elbow before hitting Ciampa with his spinning decapitation lariat for the 1-2-3. This was one of those matches that makes me wish they would just hurry up and run with Elgin as World Champion already. I was practically chanting “This is awesome!” from my couch multiple times during the match.
Following the match, Q.T. Marshall came out to the ring as both wrestlers were down, holding ice packs on their necks. Presumably, Ciampa goes off to feud with Marshall and his ex-manager Evans. Meanwhile, Elgin still has a World Title shot in his pocket. After his performance here, I’d be willing to bet a lot of fans are hoping he cashes in on it when he uses it. I know I am.
Intermission followed, which was a wise move. Just replays of the hype packages that were previously shown on TV, as well as highlights of the Briscoes’ first ROH meeting back in 2002 at Honor Invades Boston. Coming out, Nigel McGuinness is introduced as the Steve Corino’s stand-in on color commentary for the rest of the show. Another video package about the upcoming three-way matches was played before getting back to wrestling.
Match #5: Matt Taven (with Truth Martini and the Hoopla Hotties) def. Jimmy Jacobs and Jay Lethal via ??? to retain the Ring of Honor TV Championship
This just was not a good match at all, and to top it off, the stream went to hell and the finish was missed. Taven has taken steps as a character thanks to having Truth Martini as his manager, but as a wrestler he is still incredibly sloppy and generally not good. His look is as indy as it gets, and so are his matches. This one broke down after a few minutes, with Taven botching moves left and right all over the ring. He and Lethal combined to completely blow Lethal’s push-up neckbreaker at one point. The MVP of the match by default was Jimmy Jacobs and his usual bumping heel act. Martini and the Hotties factored heavily into the finish. At least I think they did. Unfortunately, even after the stream skipped the finish, they didn’t even show a replay of it. Just an all-around not good portion of the show.
Match #6: reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) def. C&C Wrestle Factory (Cedric Alexander & Caprice Coleman) and S.C.U.M. (Cliff Compton & Rhett Titus) via pinfall to retain the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship
Unfortunately, this match didn’t deliver, either. Either it was very short, or the stream skipped a whole bunch and I didn’t even notice. Whichever it was, it wasn’t a good match. It didn’t help that the build to the match was virtually non-existent thanks to no appearances on TV by reDRagon over the past month. The bulk of the match was Compton and Titus beating down C&C. I like Cliff Compton, but he doesn’t seem to be clicking at all right now and Titus is always hit or miss. While it would be great if the company was able to book S.C.U.M. as strongly as WWE books The Shield, the talent just isn’t present in the stable to justify it. The pin followed a kick by the illegal man Fish to the head of Alexander. Fish then draped the also unresponsive O’Reilly over Alexander for the three count. Just a nothing match.
Match #7: Matt Hardy (with Steve Corino) def. Kevin Steen via Twist of Fate
Steve Corino came out and delivered an outstanding pre-match promo to get this show back on track. Fans showered the ring with rolls of toilet paper as Corino took shots at Baltimore icons like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ray Lewis. This was likely the hottest the crowd got all night, and it gave the match a bit of a main event feel. There are plenty of justified criticisms of Matt Hardy, but he is the perfect type of guy to be a heel in a company like Ring of Honor. Steen came out to a great reaction and took the mic to ask matchmaker/color commentator Nigel McGuinness for a no disqualification stipulation to be added and Nigel obliges. The match instantly devolved into the brawling style that Steen has used to win three straight Wrestling Observer Best Brawler awards. Steen was mostly in control until Corino was able to get a steel garbage can to Hardy. Both men then put the trash can to use, before Steen rendered it useless following a cannonball in the corner on Hardy. The S.C.U.M. run-ins then started, with Rhett Titus coming in to take a package piledriver and snot rocket from Steen. Jimmy Jacobs was next and was greeted with two powerbombs on the ring apron. Cliff Compton followed with a pair of chairshots to Steen’s back, setting up Hardy to hit Steen with a ladder. After the match moved back into the ring, Steen hit a low blow and his F-Cinq on Hardy for a near-fall. Hardy followed with a low blow of his own, coupled with a Side Effect for another two count. Hardy then set up two open steel chairs in the ring and put Steen through them with the Twist of Fate and the pin. After the match, the S.C.U.M members put the boots to Steen as no one from the ROH contingent comes to Steen’s rescue. After S.C.UM. lost both the Tag and TV championship matches, Hardy needed to win here and they needed to get their heat back. That was accomplished, and Steve Corino was the definite MVP of this match. Overall, a basic Steen match, which is to say it was good.
Match #8: Jay Briscoe def. Mark Briscoe via Jay-Driller to retain the Ring of Honor World Title
Before the match, Papa Briscoe was interviewed by Larry Mercer, as the camera showed the 60+ Briscoe friends and family members in attendance. Nigel says it is about 90 degrees inside the Du Burns arena. Perhaps that plays a part in why the crowd is mostly pretty flat for this match. There were alternating “Mark” and “Jay” chants at the outset, as well as the standard “Man Up!” chants, but in general the fans seemed to love the idea of the brother vs. brother match rather than the reality of it. The brothers worked slow and wrestling-based early, seemingly to establish that they are equals. The fans just never seemed to buy Mark as a legit world champion, though. Neither man attempted a pinfall for about 10 minutes. The action picked up as they brawled outside and even worked together to set up a table. There was the standard “This is awesome!” chant, but it really wasn’t. Eventually, Mark was able to put Jay through the table with his Froggy Bow, and he hit the same move in the ring for a nearfall that wasn’t believable. Jay then hit a Jay-Driller for a nearfall. Followed by a lariat and another Jay-Driller that Mark kicked out of at 1. Jay then landed three super kicks and yet another Jay-Driller to finally secure the pin of his younger brother. The match was fine overall, but the finish just fell flat to me. The show went off with both men down in the ring, joined by the family.
This was a pretty standard ROH iPPV, but was better than Border Wars last month thanks to the excellent Cole/Strong and Elgin/Ciampa matches. They did a good job of advancing several stories. The show just lost a lot of steam post-intermission. Of course, it wouldn’t be the ROH iPPV experience without the occasional technical issues. Thumbs in the middle, pointing slightly up.