This week’s Ring of Honor TV features a Number one contenders match for Davey Richards’ ROH World title, as his former partner and frequent foe “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards faces Roderick Strong. Also in action is “The Dominant Male” Tommaso Ciampa, and “The Prodigy” Mike Bennett takes on “Technical Lightning” TJ Perkins.
A couple things I wanna touch on before I get into things. I didn’t get the chance to check out last weekend’s iPPV, Young Wolves Rising, just due to personal reasons. If I’m being honest, ROH really needs to consider finding a better timeslot for their iPPVs or just abandoning the format until someone will put them on regular PPV. Starting at 5pm Eastern time doesn’t really make for engaging action, especially when someone might be just settling down to dinner or doing whatever else. Plus, consider how that comes across for people on the west coast or abroad. In California, you’d have to sit down at 2pm to watch an ROH iPPV, and that just isn’t a prime time. Still, I heard the show was excellent, and I’m considering getting the DVD when it becomes available. Also, I wanted to poll my readers about when I do these recaps. I’ve been doing them for the last month for the weekend, or Thursday night at the earliest. That’s when the show posts for any unpaid, General Admission members at ROHwrestling.com, and I assume by that point it’s aired everywhere on the Sinclair syndication package (since, as far as I know, it doesn’t air in the same time slot everywhere). Does this seem too late to anyone? I don’t have the Ringside membership where the show becomes available on Mondays just because it doesn’t seem really valuable to me, since I’ll be lucky if I find the time to watch it before the weekend anyway. I know other sites have their ROH analysis up by Tuesday morning; does anyone who reads this feel like I should be doing these that early as well? I’m willing to do that if any readers really feel like it’s what they want. Otherwise, I think this might get lost in the mid-week shuffle. Anyone who has an opinion, let me know in the comments. I aim to please.
Anyhow, we kick off with a promo from Mike Bennett and Maria (who I recently found out was his real-life girlfriend. Lucky bastard.) At the 2 night event in Tampa later this month, Bennett is facing Lance Storm, coming out of retirement for this one match. Storm did something similar years ago against Bryan Danielson, and while many people love that match, I feel like it’s the purest example of “Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling” stretched out to a point where it becomes nearly unbearable. Taking Storm, a wrestler who is more give than take and mainly excels at making his opponent look great, and putting him against Bennett, who could use the rub but doesn’t have nearly enough offense to make Storm’s giving worthwhile, should make this match a trainwreck in progress. I was trying to think this week of what it is about Bennett that inspires so much apathy in me. The conclusion I’ve come to is this: he’s another Randy Orton. Not (I hope) in terms of backstage attitude or no-selling. He’s like Orton in the way he’s percieved inside the business. Guys like Storm don’t just pop out of retirement and fly to Florida to take on anyone that happens to be hanging around. Obviously Storm wants to put Bennett over. Bennett has gotten a tremendous mid-card push in ROH, and from what I’ve gathered from different sources, people in the business and out have judged him to be a star in waiting. Despite all this, he just doesn’t deliver. His ring work is competent, but nothing special. He has charisma, but his mic skills are “generically charismatic”, if that makes any sense. I keep hoping that working extensively with Jay Lethal and El Generico would have rubbed off in a way that makes Bennett raise his game, but he mainly does the same kind of spots that most NXT rookies have in their arsenals. As I said, he’s Orton: someone who can fake the total package of looking and acting like a star without actually having the quality to back any of that up. Still, he’ll have a long and successful career in wrestling, simply because he’s able to position himself as having potential that he doesn’t actually have. Someday ten years from now, when we’re more familiar with Bennett as future WWE Champion Roscoe Riggins, I’m sure more people on the internet will share my opinion.
Despite all that, Bennett’s match against “Theoretical Thunder” TJ Perkins was actually really well booked. Perkins hasn’t quite made his name in ROH yet, but last weekend, his slapped together match teaming with Amazing Red against the House of Truth stole the show, from all reports. Perkins has a youthful look but a few years of experience, and he has a lucha-influenced style that makes for great babyface pops. He has the look of a young skate punk mixed with a Latin heartthrob, like a Hernandez Bros. character come to life. I think he’s got a path carved out for him in ROH if he stays with the company. Even though ostensibly this was just a jobber match for Bennett to get heat for his match against Storm, Perkins isn’t quite at that job level. Most of the match was built around Perkins hitting an array of high flying spots, while Bennett got almost no offense in and generally only gained the upper hand due to interference from Maria and his “trainer”, Brutal Bob Evans (and as far as shitty Denny’s ripoffs go, Bob Evans is pretty brutal. Almost as Brutal as a guy doing a “Mick from Rocky” gimmick). Those sort of shenanigans led to Bennett getting the win with a TKO. As far as what it was meant for, this match did its job. It made me want to see “Arguable Atmospheric Pressure” TJ Perkins wrestle again, and it made me like Bennett less.
Next we get promos from Jay Lethal and Tommaso Ciampa, hyping their TV title match that happened this past Sunday (this show first aired last Saturday. Another point toward me doing these sooner?). Ciampa had the rest of The Embassy, LTD with him (Prince Nana, Princess Mia Yim, Ernesto Osiris, and Barrister RD Evans, who unfortunately did not speak), and he cut a fairly intense if unremarkable promo against Lethal, really selling the kind of steely intensity that has led to, in addition to “The Dominant Male”, his nickname becoming “The Sicilian Psychopath”. Even if Ciampa isn’t on the top level of mic skills, he has RD Evans at his side. Anyone who reads these comments knows about RD’s cult following here: the guy is a seriously gifted comedic actor and he should be doing a lot more on ROH TV. To top that off, Ciampa is stellar in the ring. Tonight he faced Guy Alexander (Sidenote: first the chirons at the bottom of the screen didn’t list either wrestler’s name, and then the Tale of the Tape featured Cedric Alexander instead of Guy. Very bush league from ROH, something that they can’t afford to come off as.) It was an out and out squash, as Ciampa completely unleashed on Alexander. Ciampa does a lot of kicks & Knees to the head, and he employs a lot of that Sheamus-style repeated blows to his opponents. He’s not meat & potatoes by any means, though: when I saw him live late last year, he worked a more technical/submission style, and even worked in some comedy spots while playing babyface. No comedy here though. One really cool moment saw Ciampa whipping Alexander back and forth between the guard rail and the ring apron several times; it was a simple enough spot that broke the babyface down completely without having to really do anything too high risk. The ending had Ciampa driving running knees into Alexander’s face, face wash style in the corner, six times in a row before the referee intervened and declared Alexander unable to continue. What an awesome way to put someone over as a killer. The only disappointment is that he didn’t get to finish Alexander off with his choice finisher, the Project Ciampa II: a powerbomb-into-Backstabber. Mark my words, Tommaso Ciampa has the ROH World title in his future. Ciampa is f------ bank.
The Number One Contender match between Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong, with the winner facing Davey Richards at Showdown in the Sun on March 30th. Eddie won his first and only ROH World title from Roddy, so there’s some history there. While it’s not surprising that these two are perennial challengers to the ROH title, it does seem as though Richards, Edwards, and Strong are the only three people who are even a part of the ROH title scene. Not that ROH has a deep roster but they’ve been running with those three guys for almost 2 years now, and they need to variate things a little so they don’t get stale. Nevertheless, these two are very well suited to one another. Their styles are extremely similar, with lots of standup striking, simple high flying, and a variety of power moves from both men. This match seemed almost effortless from these two, and they played well off one another. Strong has always had a little problem with being charisma deficient but, while his mic skills are still pretty rough, he’s developing quite a bit of physical charisma in his heel role. Eddie & Roddy are both big choppers, and inevitably they ended up trading chops in the ring. No surprise, Eddie won out. Toward the end, Eddie kicked out of a Death By Roderick gutbuster rather quickly, and then as they moved toward the top rope, Eddie reversed a top rope DBR attempt into a rana. Following up with a Chin Checker (backpack stunner), both men were slowed. Truth Martini made an attempt to interfere from the outside, which drew out Adam Cole to lay him out with a superkick. That brought Michael Elgin out to even the odds, and referee Todd Sinclair got involved long enough for Strong to make a move from Heel 101. He put something around his boot, which was more than likely just some tape but it could have been anything. With this he delivered the Sick Kick (running sitout big boot) and Eddie did a full double twist Jannetty sell in a great visual. Sinclair got back in to count the win for Strong, but referee Paul Turner came out of the back to dispute. Edwards wasn’t going to wait around for someone to restart the match officially, so he hit the Die Hard (a cross legged fisherman buster, and might I add, a move that needs renaming if “Die Hard” is gonna be his nickname) and knocked Sinclair down in the process, with Turner counting the pin. After the break everyone is in the ring and Cornette declares both men to be Number One Contender, to face Davey in a 3 way on the 30th. If I were booking ROH, I’d be extremely careful about overusing these kind of Dusty Finishes and f--- finishes every week. That kind of thing used to be a dirty word in ROH, and it doesn’t sit well when compared to the overwealth of 50/50 booking in wrestling right now.
In total, this week was highlight to some great wrestling. Even though all these matches were, basically, short TV matches meant to advance angles rather than stand on their own, the in ring quality here was top notch. If nothing else, ROH continues to impress by keeping it simple: take a talented roster full of quality workers, and let them go out and have matches to show what they got. Leave a comment below if you’d like to see me knock these out sooner and as always, remember: Don’t take my word for it. Go to ROHwrestling.com and check it out yourself.