Ring of Honor – May 18th, 2016

Howdy!

Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way here….

Notable news from around the world of ROH this week:

–Cedric Alexander is done. He tweeted out that he was finishing up with the company over the past week after 5 years in ROH. Speculation abounds that he is possibly WWE bound, either for the Global Cruiserweight Series or NXT. He is at this moment accepting indy bookings, so that’s just a rumor at this point. For my part, I’ll say that Cedric goes down as an almost criminal misuse of talent, in that I felt that he truly had potential to really make it much further in the company than he did. Godspeed, Ced. Good luck!

–The injury bug has struck both members of the Young Bucks. Nick Jackson broke multiple ribs at the Toronto TV Tapings and will not be working the upcoming NJPW tour, while Matt Jackson broke his hand and is day to day; he still worked the TV tapings with Adam Cole, and the severity of the injury is not known as of right now.

–The ROH Twitter feed has gone into overdrive and produced some MASSIVE SPOILERS about the upcoming TV shows and tapings. While I won’t post them all, at least one of them needs to be discussed; I’ll do that after this week’s recap. You’ll have warning.

Now last week, I said a few things about the overall direction of ROH in my Global Wars review. And when this recap is all done, I’ll have a few more things to say. Again, we’ll get into that after the recap.

But for now, let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Ring of Honor TV – 5/18/16

Kevin Kelly voiceover talks about what it takes to be a champion, and that tonight, we’re going to spend the hour taking a special look at the ROH World Champion, Jay Lethal!

So….a clip show! Alright, let’s do this.

Standard intro plays, then we are TAPED from the fake locker room of Ring of Honor with our host, Kevin Kelly! Who is wearing a tie that is probably going to give me a seizure before the end of this recap if we go back to him too often. He mentions that for the past two years, there hasn’t been a day that Jay Lethal has not had gold around his waist, which is admittedly fairly impressive.

We start our highlights at Supercard of Honor 8 in New Orleans, which was the first Ring of Honor event I had the privilege to witness live; little did I know what was starting. Shout out to the always awesome Nick Gator for getting the tickets and giving me the chance to see this show. Funny story about that event; if you go to an ROH event, they normally have an autograph line, etc. One of the first people that talked to me was, in fact, Jay Lethal, who was shilling for Adam Cole. “Hey man, want to get your picture taken with the World Champ?” I was waiting for Kevin Steen and kind of mumbled something that I don’t remember, which also describes my interaction with Kevin; I was a little intimidated by the whole thing. I also remember Maria sitting on Michael Bennett’s lap, and seeing her up close gave me….other feelings.

Anyway, let’s pick up the action at the end of the match. Lethal was taking on Tomasso Ciampa for the ROH World TV title, attempting to become the first two-time TV Champ. The referee was down on the mat after a bump, and Truth Martini ran down to ringside and tossed a knee brace into Jay, who leveled Ciampa with it for two. Hail to the King elbow by Lethal…gets one! Ciampa is TOMASSOING up! Two superkicks by Lethal are no-sold by Ciampa, but Lethal kicks him a third time, this time in the knee, and the Lethal Injection finishes to give Jay the title. Truth runs around the ring with the title to celebrate, although they don’t show Jay’s awesome “There is a house in New Orleans, and it is the House of Truth!” line.

Quick Lethal Injections are shown finishing off Matt Sydal, and Jushin Liger, along with a quick bit of him trading shots with ACH. But now, Kevin says, let’s take a look at what Kevin calls one of the Jay’s most memorable defenses, at Ring of Honor’s 13th Anniversary show!

Jay Lethal (w/ Truth Martini & J. Diesel) vs Alberto El Patron – ROH World TV Title match

Code of Honor is followed. Before the match starts, Alberto superkicks Diesel out of the ring. Jay charges and gets alley-ooped to the apron, and a Patron superkick to the knee sends Jay to the floor. Alberto immediately follows that with a tope to send Lethal to the barricade. Patron whips Lethal headfirst into the other barricade, and that looked like it hurt. Lethal tries to right back with chops, but Patron reverses a whip and sends Lethal to another barricade. Alberto sends him back in the ring, and comes off with a flying forearm for a one count, then a chinlock. Patron showed more fire in that sequence than he has in his entire second WWE run. Lethal fights up and they trade knees, Patron whips him to the corner and charges….but Lethal drops him on the top rope, crotch first. Sorry, Paige. Springboard dropkick by Lethal brings Alberto back into the ring. The commentators have a fun little time pointing out that the ropes are different in this ring, similar to the ‘previous employer’ of Alberto, while Lethal has spent the last 13 years using a different kind of rope, so how will Jay adjust? Little things like that on commentary make me hate Corino less, because it’s a salient point if you’re looking at wrestling as a legit competition. Plus, they’re kind of mocking TNA, which I can always get behind. Lethal with the ground and pound, and he hangs Patron on the bottom rope to allow Truth some chokin’. Lethal puts Patron on the top rope and fires away with chops and fists, but Alberto catches the arm and puts on the rope-assisted cross-armbreaker. He breaks it at four, and a break sounds great; an ad break!

We’re back with Lethal holding a cross-armbar in the middle of the ring, Alberto finally breaking it after attempting to roll Jay into a pinfall. Lethal clotheslines him over the top rope, then hits him with a tope to the barricade! A second one! A third sends Patron into the front row! Lethal rolls back into the ring, telling the ref to count Patron out. Alberto makes it back in at 15. Jay stomps away and puts Patron on the top rope and goes for a superplex, but Alberto fights out and levels Jay, hanging Lethal in the Tree of Woe. Patron comes off, double foot stomp on Jay! 1,2, no! Alberto tunes up the band and goes for a superkick, Lethal blocks, and they slug it out in the middle of the ring. Patron off the ropes, Lethal with the Lethal Combination for two. Lethal goes up, but Patron stops him with an enzuigiri on the top rope! Truth comes in and swings the Book of Truth (in full view of the ref, mind you), but Alberto ducks and puts Truth in the cross-armbreaker. Lethal comes off the top rope with the Hail to the King elbow, but gets caught and Alberto slaps the cross-armbreaker on him! Lethal reaches around and grabs the Book of Truth and smashes Patron in the head with it, but that only gets two. Lethal picks Patron up, but Alberto gets double knees onto the injured arm of Lethal. Superkick attempt by Patron is caught and Jay hits a bicycle kick, but he goes for the Lethal Injection and the arm gives out. Alberto goes for a roll up, but Jay kicks out and Patron gets sent to the ropes, where Truth smashes him with the Book of Truth. Jay follows that with the Lethal Injection through the pain, and that’ll get us the 1,2,3. (Jay Lethal over Alberto El Patron, pinfall, 10:14 aired)

WORTH WATCHING? They aired most of the match as I remember it, and I thought it was pretty good when it happened the first time. YES, if you want to see a more motivated Del Rio, this is worth a look. It’s not much more than ***, but it’s perfectly acceptable wrestling with two good workers. The ending was, of course, atrocious, which has been a problem for Jay throughout these title reigns.

Post-match, Lethal and the House of Truth celebrate.

Back to Kevin, who tells us that shortly after that victory, Lethal began to proclaim himself the ‘ROH Champion’, going so far as to create a new belt that said just that. That caught Jay Briscoe’s attention, and that led to the unification at Best in the World. And when we come back, we’ll take a look at that special match! Come back from where? Why, this ad break!

We’re back with Kevin. He talks about Lethal holding the TV title for more than a year, then the fact that Jay Briscoe hadn’t been pinned for over two years. Kevin calls it ‘one of the greatest matches in Ring of Honor history’; now, that’s a bit of a stretch there. Yes, it’s a **** match and the win that legitimized Jay, but I’m not sure it deserves THAT bit of hyperbole from a company that has specialized over the years in putting on matches that good. It’s a very, very good match though.

The match itself aired on the 2015 end of the year show pretty much in full; my review of that show and the match is here: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2015/12/31/ring-of-honor-december-30th-2015/

I’ll skip recapping it again, especially since this is a truncated version; it is well worth your time to watch it, though. It was absolutely the match that Lethal needed and put him over the top in a big way.

Kevin tells us that now that Jay held both belts, there would be a huge target on his back, with no shortage of challengers. And we’ll find out about those challengers….after this ad break!

We’re back with Kevin, who says that it’s amazing to think about the fact that Jay Lethal has held the ROH World championship for almost a full year. He runs down Lethal defending both titles successfully at All-Star Extravaganza (Kyle was robbed. Robbed, I tells ya!), and goes from that into his feud with Roderick Strong. He talks about the time limit draw (which I was not nearly as high on as other guys; it was clear they were heading for the draw past the 30 minute mark, and I wasn’t invested enough in what they were doing to buy the drama going home. I had it at ***1/4, for anyone who gives a crap) and their subsequent rematch on ROH TV, which I actually preferred, that was won by Lethal.

So, that leaves us with Roderick ‘One More Match’ Strong, as he convinced Nigel McGuinness to give him one more shot at Jay, to which Nigel agreed; giving him a shot at the TV Title.

We go to highlights from that match, which aired on ROH TV, and is another one that I’ve already recapped. Suffice to say, I was more than a little tired of the feud at this point, but the match was very watchable. Check out my recap here if you’re interested: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2015/11/27/ring-of-honor-november-25th-2015/

Kelly voiceover tells us that even with Strong beating Jay, Lethal held the belt for 18 months and made over 30 defenses of the title, meaning that he holds all the records associated with the ROH TV title, which considering the lineage of that belt, is pretty damned impressive. A graphic on the bottom of the screen tells us that up next, we’ll see highlights of Lethal against AJ Styles from Final Battle; graphic, you have my attention! But first off, my attention is needed by these ads!

We’re back with Kevin, who tells us that after Lethal lost to Strong, he challenged anyone and everyone to prove that he was still the best wrestler in the world as the ROH World champion. And it was with that in mind that he accepted the challenge of one AJ Styles at Final Battle. Well, Styles won a #1 contender’s match, but we’ll go with the narrative that Jay wanted to prove he was the best. Styles was finishing up at this point before heading to the WWE, working Final Battle and WrestleKingdom 10 within days of each other, nursing a nasty back injury. Would he and Jay tear it down?

Dude, it’s AJ Styles. Of COURSE they would.

Jay Lethal (w/ Taeler Hendrix & Truth Martini) vs AJ Styles – Ring of Honor World Title

We pick things up very late in the match, with Jay hitting a tope on AJ to send him into the front row. Styles gets back to the barricade so Lethal goes for another one, but AJ catches him with a nasty forearm mid-dive to put both guys down. Both guys roll in at the same time and they slug it out, but Jay catches AJ with a Flatliner and goes into the Koji Clutch. AJ maneuvers out into the Calf Cutter, and now Jay is in trouble, but he makes the ropes to break. Enzugiri by AJ, and he goes up, but Lethal stops him with a right hand. Lethal looks for the superplex, AJ wiggles out and drops Jay on the ropes. AJ comes in, but Lethal gets a springboard cutter off the second rope! Lethal goes for Lethal Injection, but AJ ducks and gets a Pele, then Bloody Sunday! Styles calls for the Styles Clash, but Lethal picks him up from underneath and tosses him to the floor through the ringside table with his last bit of strength! Jesus. Lethal is content to take the countout, but Styles manages to drag himself up and back into the ring at the count of 19. Lethal measures him….Lethal Injection! 1,2, NO! I remember watching and I was SURE that was the finish. Lethal gets in AJ’s face and puts on the badmouth, and now Styles is angry. Shots and kicks from AJ! Lethal moves out of the way of a Pele, but Styles rolls him up into the Clash, Lethal wiggles free, Cradle Piledriver from Lethal! He stops to throw something at Jerry Lynn at ringside, then Lethal Injection #2! And that’ll do it. (Jay Lethal over AJ Styles, pinfall, 6:36 aired)

WORTH WATCHING? The whole match? Sure. It’s a great match. The ending 6 minutes? NO, you should skip this and seek out the whole thing. I can’t believe that they shaved that match down to less than seven minutes. It was probably Lethal’s best match of the entire run.

Post-match, Lethal eyes Jerry Lynn as the House of Truth celebrates. Up next, we’re told that we’ll see highlights from Tomoaki Honma from Honor Rising! But first, let’s check out what should be our final ad break!

We’re back with Kevin. “Fans, what an hour it has been!” He talks about the greatness of Lethal, including the records set with the TV title, and his almost one year reign with the ROH World title. Highlights of him defending in England, and at WrestleKingdom 10 against Michael Elgin air as Kelly talks, and we’re going to now look at his Honor Rising match against Honma.

Again, I’ve already reviewed this match. It contains the single craziest bump I’ve seen in a long time, as Honma did a diving headbutt to the floor from the top rope with pretty much zero protection. I mean, Honma BOUNCED off the floor when he hit. Lethal got the win with shenanigans, and if you’re just dying to hear my thoughts on this one, you can check them out right here: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2016/02/24/honor-rising-night-2/

Back with Kevin to wrap it up. He thanks us for joining, and tells us that next week, we’ll take a very special look….at Bullet Club. And we’re done for the week.

FINAL THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: This was a clip show, so your mileage may vary. It did its job in that it made me realize that Lethal has had a pretty solid reign as ROH World champ, all things considered, with multiple **** matches along the way. Overall, though, I’d rather just watch the matches themselves, so if you’re up to date on Lethal, this week’s episode has nothing for you.

Okay, now I want to talk about some other things, but they involve SPOILERS from upcoming ROH TV. As such, I’m putting up the spoiler buffer zone here; keep in mind if you read one of the 6 comments I normally get on these things, we may be talking about them. You’ve been warned.

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Okay, that should be enough.

Now, I normally avoid spoilers like the plague, but the ROH Twitter account started dropping them left and right this week, and there’s one in particular that I want to discuss, and that is this:

Jay Briscoe has officially challenged Lethal to a rematch, one year later, at Best in the World 2016. And that match has been signed and will main event the show.

Now, there’s good things about this. Briscoe and Lethal have decent chemistry in the ring, Briscoe never did get his rematch, and after he and Mark lost their shot at the tag belts, he’s not currently involved with a feud, so the timing should feel right.

But there’s a problem, and that problem is something that I wrote about at length last week; the ending of Glory by Honor.

See, at Glory by Honor, ROH decided to go with a very specific ending, one that I defended as having a way to go forward. When the Bullet Club attacked and ended the main event between Cabana and Lethal, the biggest reveal of them all was that Adam Cole had joined the Bullet Club. At that point, when they laid waste to the entire ringside area, the die was cast for me; Adam Cole needed to win the ROH World title to legitimize the angle. Once they did that angle, Cole looked like the biggest star in Ring of Honor. His signing with the Bullet Club was presented as a HUGE deal, and if it’s a huge deal, then it stands to reason that Cole is the biggest star. Once the Bucks tossed those shirts at Jay and Colt, then superkicked them, they said with their actions that they didn’t need the world champ, because they had Adam Cole. And this is a textbook example of striking while the iron is hot.

The Bullet Club has stood on the periphery of ROH for years now. Their members continually get cheered when they come over from Japan. But up until now, the Young Bucks were the only full-time Bullet Club members in ROH. That is clearly changing. The ending of Glory by Honor made it clear that now we’re looking at a full-blown Bullet Club in ROH. So, it stands to reason that if the faction is now invading ROH, they should be put over strongly at every single opportunity. And the biggest prize of them all is Jay Lethal’s world title.

There is ZERO reason to wait. Adam Cole should have been challenging Jay on that night for a World title shot.

Yet now, we’re looking at Briscoe claiming the title shot at Best in the World, and that means that Adam has to wait. And this is not an angle where it’s a good idea to wait. This is one where they should put him over for the strap as soon as possible, they should put the Bucks over for the tag belts as soon as possible, they should be holding the gold.
Now, do I think this rematch is the worst idea in the world? Of course not. And if they hadn’t done the angle at the end of Glory by Honor, I’d be right on board with it. But when you end a PPV with what amounts to an invading force destroying everything they can, it makes zero sense that they would wait around to get what they want.

This leads into my next point: ROH TV.

I won’t rehash everything that I said last week, but I will say that it looks like we’re getting another clip show next week, probably to ‘introduce’ the Bullet Club to everyone. And that’s fine, except the PPV is on June 24th. We have about a month of shows to get there.

That’s less than six hours of TV time to build the entire PPV.

Say what you will about NXT, but they use their shows VERY well to build to the Takeover specials, whereas ROH has had severe problems in that area. And the problem with that is that ROH is asking the fans to buy their PPVs at $45 apiece. To sell a PPV at that rate in this day and age, you need to have an extremely compelling set of storylines upon which to do so.

Yet we got a clip show this week. We’re probably getting one next week. You’ve now got 3 hours of time to convince the fan base to shell out the dough to watch the PPV. And yeah, most of us ROH marks are going to do it anyway because we like the matches and we like this promotion. But you’re not convincing workrate weirdos like ME; you’ve got my money. You’re convincing the guy who isn’t sure if he wants to spend the money, and if you don’t use that time wisely, their money stays in their wallet.

I’m sure that ROH TV will be lots of fun over the next few weeks as we see the fallout with the NJPW guys after Glory by Honor. I’m sure that the matches will be great. I’ll enjoy recapping it.

But they’ve got to sell PPVs. And I’m not at all convinced that this is the way to go about doing that when one of your competitors (and here I’m talking about NXT, not the WWE) is using their time more successfully to build to their big ‘PPV’ style events, and is charging less than 25% of the price to do so.

I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?

As always, thanks for reading this thing that I wrote,

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter