–ROH is back after a two week break from new action. Now that the dust has settled completely on the action of Showdown in the Sun, we begin the build to the next iPPV, Border Wars from Toronto. ROH confirmed this week that they will be bringing all their iPPVs in-house, available to be pre-ordered and watched on ROHwrestling.com. This is a smart move from them after the disasters that came from their partnership with Go Fight Live, but lets all hope they can avoid having similar transmission problems in-house. This week in Ring of Honor, we will see The Briscoes take on Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander, Adam Cole facing Roderick Strong, and the ROH TV debut of Rhino.
—The Briscoes vs. Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander (or C&C Wrestling Factory, as Shelton Benjamin named them) starts us off. The story going in is that the Briscoes are still fired up after the post-match beatdown from Showdown by Haas & Benjamin, so they weren’t interested in upholding the Code of Honor. This was a rapid paced tag match, with C&C getting to show off a lot of their offense. One of Coleman’s trademark moves is an STO called the Bless-T-O, which might be the worst wordplay-name for a move since Eat Defeat. Coleman also attempted a version of the 619 on Jay to the outside, swinging around the ring post and under the ring ropes, but Jay blocked it and turned it into a giant swing to the guard rail. Mark Briscoe is getting to be more and more fun with the semi-comedic moves he’ll throw in during the middle portions of a match. This time he did a crabwalk across the middle rope (a shiny new donkey to the first person to name which Michinoku Pro alum that was cribbed from in the comments!) into his Froggy ‘Bow. The end came when, with the ref and all other participants distracted, Haas & Benjamin came to ringside and held Jay up for a kick to the nuts, leading to C&C taking advantage of the distraction with a no-hands hurricanrana from Coleman into a body splash from Alexander for the pin. According to ROH rules, this would mean that C&C are due for a title shot sometime soon, and presuming it happens after Border Wars, I’d like to see these two teams get even more time to tear it up. I still think C&C’s gimmick and personalities are a little obnoxious but they are definitely up to snuff between the bells.
–Before Rhino vs. Vinny Marseglia we see a backstage promo with Prince Nana and RD Evans of The Embassy, Ltd. as they announce that they’ve sold Rhino’s talent contract to Truth Martini, who cuts a promo on his Border Wars opponent Eddie Edwards. They’ve been advertising Rhino as being Truth Martini’s hired hand for the last few weeks, so this segment didn’t really play as a surprise, but at the same time it was nice that they acknowledged that Rhino had previously been with The Embassy for all 20 of us that remembered. The match was just a jobber squash. Marseglia is another local Maryland area talent, with a preposterous amount of tattoos. Rhino looks to have trimmed up and worked on his definition quite a bit since has most recent appearances with TNA during the EV2.0 mess. I’d dare say this is the best he’s looked in his career. The match was just a quick clothesline, belly to belly suplex, and GORE~!, all sold very well by Vinny. As Kevin Kelly said: “He don’t get paid by the hour!”
–Our weekly Kevin Steen interview segment starts off with Jim Cornette calling him out regarding Border Wars. Steen is joined by his new lackey, Jimmy Jacobs (still no explanation as to why he’s now “Zombie Princess” Jimmy Jacobs, although he has been acting a little more fey as of late). Steen is also wearing a Canadian flag in the spirit of US vs. Canada, so Cornette can pretend it’s 1997 again. (And hey, what else happened regarding a Canadian vs. an American in 97? I fucking called it, folks). This brings out Davey Richards, draped in an American flag. I like that this isn’t just convenient American patriotism for Richards, as “American Wolf” and “American Strong Style” have always been a part of his gimmick. Harsh words are exchanged, but this time Steen has a point to prove: he brings up that he & Richards used to be friends and Davey claimed he would help Steen get back into ROH, and then tasks Richards for being a hypocrite since he claims to love and defend ROH after every match and yet every time something doesn’t go his way he threatens to leave ROH and take the title to Japan. Things escalate into a pull-apart until Cornette lays down the line. If the piledriver is to be reinstated for their match, he wants both men to sign a waiver so they can’t sue ROH if either of them breaks their neck (Steen: “What am I gonna sue you for? Some old Smoky Mountain tapes?”) Cornette then reveals that, much as he did to Lex Luger in 93, he’s tricked Steen into signing a contract stating that he only gets one shot at the ROH title. I don’t know if this directly points to Steen winning at Border Wars, or if there’s going to be more storyline justification, but it’s an interesting concept anyway. With each week, Richards is getting less and less likeable, whereas Steen would have to try really hard to get the ROH faithful to turn on him.
–I’ll skip over most of Inside ROH since, just as it has been for a few weeks, it’s built mainly around a drawn out Lance Storm promo. Lance Storm saying anything that isn’t a sarcastic aside about his opponents using steroids or being American is Ambien in promo form, of course.
—ROH TV Champ Roderick Strong vs. Adam Cole is our main event. These two are pretty evenly matched in size and style. Strong actually adheres to the Code of Honor, as Nigel McGuiness suspected he would on commentary due to being confident at his place in his career. Subtle seeds are being sown for a Roddy face turn, which makes sense if he’s going to be involved in the Jay Lethal/Tommaso Ciampa feud. I sense a 3 way is forthcoming and then possibly focus being shifted to Strong vs. Ciampa. Twice toward the end of this match, Roddy launched Cole to the outside and caused a collision with Michael Elgin. Much as they did a month or so ago, this looked almost intentional on Roddy’s part, and I can see those two splitting soon too. Roderick as a face is usually preferable anyway: if a match is structured in the traditional face/heel/face/finish pattern, Roddy as a face can condense his offense into the shorter face portions. Strong is a talented wrestler all around but he’s at his best either as the recipient of the hot tag in a team or as a babyface who can go fast paced with his offense in short bursts. As a heel he slows down his style to a more methodical pace, and it takes a lot of the wind out of the sails of his offense. This match was a fun one because the pace was kept nice & rapid. Cole’s body language in the ring is very sharp, and he’s great at playing up crowd sympathy. He also fired off a nice suplex into a face first drop to the knee. The finish came with the ref distracted by Elgin and Martini interfering, allowing Strong to his his new, as far as I know unnamed, finisher: a suplex into a double knee backbreaker. Great main event, and a harbinger of better things to come for Roderick Strong.
–After an inconsequential episode and two clip shows, ROH is back in fighting form this week. The opening tag match and the main event both functioned the way a good TV match should: fast paced, fun, and not too long so as to leave you wanting more. The storyline building in the Steen/Richards segment added more layers of intrigue to the upcoming title match, and the show as a whole moved things in a direction toward the future. Can’t ask for much more than that. Of course, don’t take my word for it: go to ROHwrestling.com and check it out for yourself.