Obviously, the big news tidbits coming out today involve CM Punk’s departure from WWE and Matt Hardy’s assault of his wife, Reby Sky, earlier this month being released on TMZ. Believe it or not, both of these stories have ties to Ring Of Honor, as Punk might make good on his threat from the 2011 pipebomb and come back to ROH. Matt Hardy works for ROH and had a match for them since the dispute. Maybe having the story released to TMZ will make Sinclair Broadcasting shy away from using Hardy on its programming, and if that’s the case, I won’t shed a tear.

But on to this week’s show!

Match 1 - Top Prospect Tournament Semifinal: Raymond Rowe vs. Corey Hollis

These top prospect tournaments have actually been pretty successful for ROH, as the participants in the past two are regular contributors to the current landscape of ROH, including the World and TV Champions. But something about this year’s tournament isn’t resonating with me. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any major personalities, save for “Benchmark” Bill Daly, who had to withdraw, and The Romantic Touch, who is Rhett Titus. Rowe and Hollis are bland and generic to their respective style. Rowe is a powerful bruiser and Hollis is a small high-flyer. Next week’s semifinal match between Hanson and Andrew Everett presents the exact same dynamic. I’d like to see these guys cut a promo.

Anyway, the match was VERY short, much shorter than either’s first-round match, which is understandable considering these matches were taped on the same night. Rowe won with an awesome finisher, a full nelson into a knee to the back of the head, almost like a reverse Go 2 Sleep. ¼*

Winner: Raymond Rowe

Match 2: RD Evans vs. Matt Sells

The storyline revolving around RD Evans, now managed by Veda Scott, is that he’s doing a Goldberg-like “New Streak.” However, he claims that his victories were in far-off places like Israel and Alaska, and nobody can document whether or not the matches really happened. Nevertheless, before his match with Matt Sells (Sea Shells By the Sea Shore), his streak stood at 13-0. After another short match, Evans won with a flying neckbreaker to bring “The New Streak” to 14-0. ¼*

Winner: RD Evans

After the match, Veda Scott grabs the microphone and says that Evans isn’t done tonight, which prompted Evans to give a confused look toward Veda. She challenges anybody in the back. She doesn’t care if it’s Chris Hero, if it’s AJ Styles, if it’s Michael Elgin…

…and on cue, Elgin’s music hits.

The crowd pops because they know they’re in for a slaughter. Elgin grabs the microphone and only says three words: “Ring the bell.”

Match 3: RD Evans vs. Michael Elgin

Basically the match is a complete squash. Evans, to his credit, took his bumps like a man, including getting thrown upside down into the guardrails on the outside, as well as taking a delayed vertical superplex off the top rope. The match ends when Elgin puts two chairs together in the middle of the ring and powerbombs Evans through them, prompting a DQ, and Veda Scott screaming with elation on the outside that Evans is now 15-0, despite Evans looking like anything but a winner in the middle of the ring. I thought that was a fun way to keep “The New Streak” going while still getting Elgin over. ¾*

Winner, as a result of a disqualification, RD Evans

Match 4 - Top Prospect Tournament 2013 Final Rewind: Matt Taven vs. Tadarius Thomas

It was kinda cute of ROH to give a nod to last year’s tournament by having a rematch of that year’s finals to show how far both men have come since then. Despite coming out to “Take Your Pants Off,” the House of Truth’s theme music, Taven did not have Truth nor the Hoopla Hotties by his side, and was very serious, even shaking TD’s hand before the match. This match bore a lot of similarities to their previous encounters, with TD doing his Capoeira moves and Taven combining his high flying with striking. Taven ended up getting the win after a frog splash, and shook TD’s hand after the match. **

Winner: Matt Taven

Jay Briscoe came to the ring demanding that Adam Cole answer his challenge for the “Real” World Championship belt. Instead of Adam Cole, Bobby Fish (one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions) came out and said that Adam Cole doesn’t have to prove anything to Jay, and the fact that he carries around a title that he made in his basement on the chicken farm in Sandy Fork, Delaware, is a disgrace to real champions like him. On behalf of Cole, Fish accepts Jay’s challenge. Jay seems indifferent and ready to fight anybody, so he accepts. It’s important to note that in over a year of ROH competition, Fish has yet to be pinned or submitted in singles.

Main Event - “Real” World Championship Match: Jay Briscoe © vs. Bobby Fish

As far as TV main events go, this was standard fare. A lot of strikes from both men. As they raced toward the finish, Adam Cole came out and distracted Jay Briscoe, allowing Fish to hit a low blow followed by a Saito suplex for a very close nearfall that got the crowd jumping. Cole jumped to the apron, Jay threw Fish into Cole, then hit the Jay Driller to give Fish his first singles loss since coming back to ROH. **3/4

Winner: Jay Briscoe

After the match, Cole tried to ambush Jay by hitting him with the official World Title belt, but Jay ducked and Cole went flying. Jay then held up both titles in the air, and threw Cole’s title to the ground and held his own up, implying that he places value on his own belt above the belt that everybody else recognizes as the World Title. I thought that was a pretty powerful statement that didn’t have to be communicated verbally.

Final Thoughts

This show was okay. Again, like last week, the wrestling wasn’t much to write home about, and that’s expected given that the first half of the past three shows have been dominated by relative nobodies. However, once we get past the Top Prospect Tournament, there has been some pretty excellent booking decisions by Hunter Johnson (Delirious). I liked that they brought Michael Elgin into “The New Streak” storyline to give it credence beyond Evans just beating jobbers. I like the turn in Matt Taven’s character although I wonder what’s in store for him once he loses in his rematch bid for the TV Title. And of course, everything surrounding the main event scene is fantastic. We have at least five credible challengers for Adam Cole’s title: Jay Briscoe, Michael Elgin, Kevin Steen, Chris Hero, and AJ Styles. I think that’s the strongest lineup of potential challengers for the ROH World Title since back in the days of Nigel McGuinness’s reign in 2007/8. Having Jay be the one to snap Bobby Fish’s singles undefeated streak was a good choice to keep him credible when he could easily take a backseat to the returning Styles and Hero. I’m impressed with ROH’s direction in 2014, moreso than I’ve been in the past few years. Plus…you never know if CM Punk might decide he wants to return to his roots…

Score: 7